Alternate Geography– Series III, 2022, Complete Set of 10 Plates

Alternate Geography, by Edward Hsu, reflects on the undulating terrain of Manhattan’s northern edge, most commonly referred to today as Washington Heights. While this region is home to such a diverse population due to various waves of migration*, its topography formed natural borders, and, as such, inhabitants live with highly defined boundaries. Alternate Geography spatializes these boundaries, mapping the critical yet little known links between distinct enclaves in the region. The project consists of a book of plates featuring three series, each taking a distinctive formal approach to chart Uptown’s geography and its evolution.  

In Midnight’s Children, by Salmon Rushdie, the novel’s narrator contends, ‘most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.’ Born out of a desire to shed light in places that often elude our presence, Series III of Alternate Geography maps and records the interiorized terrain buried below northern Manhattan’s topography. Experimenting with new 3D scanning technology and digital processes, ten plates capture an extensive armature of subterranean infrastructure from previously unseen vantage points. They invite viewers to discover and reimagine a vast underground network otherwise hidden deep within bedrock. 

Through these constructed portraits, disparate notions about space and color, opacity and transparency, geometry and atmosphere are considered in moments of integration. Occupying liminal spaces between documentation and projection, reality and fiction, works in this series speculate on the formation of an alternate geography beneath Uptown’s undulating terrain.

*From being nicknamed ‘Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson’ in the 1930s for its influx of Jews that fled Europe in the years leading up to World War II, the neighborhood’s current demographic make-up garners the name ‘Quisqueya Heights’ as home to the largest Dominican community in the nation. 

Unique, Signed
Series of ten 7 x 7” artworks in a 13 x 13” maple frames with UV/anti-glare glass

Edward Hsu is an architect based in New York City. Through predominantly spatial practices, his work interrogates symbiotic relationships between communities and the built environment. Alternate Geography began as a curiosity about Hsu’s uptown neighborhood. Over time, through many conversations, self-guided explorations, teaching, and generous grants by the New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and the Architectural League, this research-based undertaking yielded a book of 30 plates that present a unique window into northern Manhattan’s complex make up. The output of this project reflects an evolving process that took place over the course of three years.