Introduction to The Bricklyn Project

Tim Hall

Abstract: A funding proposal to photograph all the bricks in Brooklyn.

Introduction: Do you know many bricks were used to build your house, your neighborhood, your city? Does anybody know? If not, why not? These are some of the questions the artists plan on exploring in The Bricklyn Project.

History: The origins of The Bricklyn Project can be traced back more than 10 years, beginning with our first large-scale attempt to democratize the overlooked architectural ephemera of the urban milieu as being equal to, or even greater than, the more easily recognized landmarks of the city. The Fire Hydrant Project (2000) challenged viewers to recontextualize the static nature of these iconic structures and see beyond their fire-fighting possibilities, into the embedded irony of being used non-traditionally (as canine toilets, e.g.), evoking an almost Borgesian inversion of the concept of “fighting fire with fire.”

Bricks

The overwhelming response to The Fire Hydrant Project led to an explosion of similar projects, including The Lamppost Project (2003) and The Stop Sign Project (2006). As one example of the results of our single-minded focus and vision, from 2000-2002 our combined projects were consistently voted among the most popular in the Urban Explorers webring on the GeoCities network.

The Bricklyn Project 2011 (“The Project”) is our most ambitious undertaking yet. The Project will recreate a high-resolution, longitudinally- and latitudinally-accurate digital record of every brick in the borough of Brooklyn, New York, which will then be stitched together and digitally “skinned” over wireframe models of the buildings and streets themselves. It will preserve the unique history and stunning authenticity of the Brooklyn streetscape, while hopefully becoming an important document for future historians.

This funding request is for Phase I of The Project, which will take approximately one (1) year to complete.

Statistics: the average building brick measures 2-1/4” (h) x 4” (d) x 8” (w). The average 3-flat Brooklyn building therefore contains approximately 3,500 bricks on the fascia. These are the focus of Phase I of The Project. Our goal is to be able to photograph one (1) typical residential building per week, with longer timeframes for larger industrial structures, schools, and the like. As The Project grows, additional photographers may be employed to greatly increase this number.

Green (LEED) Certification: Because of the entirely digital nature of The Project, we expect to be granted LEED status from the U.S. Green Buildings Council. The Project will provide an important historical document for future generations that is also completely carbon-neutral, by allowing viewers to fully immerse themselves in an actual-size, fully accurate streetscape that is free from emissions, garbage, or other pollutants. Phase I of The Project will feature a regularly-updated website where people can view the progress of this “virtual city” in real time. Viewers will be able to interact with this virtual streetscape, and zoom in and click on individual bricks, in order to view the high-resolution photo along with the exact GPS information (including altitude). High quality, archival prints of individual bricks will be available for order, as a way to recoup initial investments and make The Project self-sustaining over time. (Prices for prints to be determined).

Equipment: Below is a list of the minimal equipment necessary for completion of Phase I of The Project, with estimated retail prices as of February 2011:

Leica S2 Digital SLR with Summarit f2.5/70mm Lens: $27,000

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 digital camera with GPS, barometer, and altimeter, for GPS and altitude synchronization with archival (high-resolution) photos: $399

40’ Aerial Boom Lift rental for second (and higher) floors of buildings. $1,500/week x 52 weeks: $78,000

Panasonic AG-3DA1 Full HD 3D Camcorder (for planned Documentary about The Project): $22,000

Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card TS32GSDHC10E: $52/each (x10): $520

Canon 2161B002 PROGRAF IPF8000S 44 inch Large-Format Inkjet Printer: $5,190
Additional ink: $800 – Paper: $600

Carrying cases, office supplies, cables, routers, and peripherals: $5,000

Storage: Due to the large file sizes produced by the Leica S2 (100 MB/each), we estimate new, recurring storage requirements to be a minimum of 250 GB/week for photos alone, with an equal amount needed to store the raw HD3D video files. We therefore estimate Phase I of The Project will require at least 20 terabytes (TB) of data, which would also have to be backed up to prevent data loss. Therefore, we have identified the NETGEAR RN12P1220-100NAS 24TB ReadyNAS 3200 Network Storage (24TB capacity) as being ideal for our needs. $9,500 (each) x 2: $19,000

Two (2) Apple Mac Pro computers with the following specifications:
• Two 2.93GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere” processors
• 32GB RAM
• Mac Pro RAID Card
• 512GB solid-state drive
• 2TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s hard drive (x3)
• Two ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB video cards
• Two 18x SuperDrives
• Apple LED Cinema Display (27″ flat panel) (x2)
• Dual-channel 4Gb Fibre Channel PCI Express card
• Apple Care

Price: $15,954 each (x2): $31,908

4 MacBook Pro Models with the following specifications:
• 2.8GHz Intel Core i7
• 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
• 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
• SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
• MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Resolution Antiglare Widescreen Display
• Apple LED Cinema Display (27″ flat panel)
• Apple Care

Price each: $4,547 (x4): $18,188

3 iPads with 64GB and 3G: $2,487

Living expenses for the duration of Phase I: $50,000 (x3): $150,000

Based on these current estimates, and allowing for price increases and/or unforeseen extra expenses, in order to fulfill Phase I of The Project we therefore request the amount of $375,000.00.

Schedule of Deliverables: While it will no doubt be slow going at first, while we learn to operate the aerial lift and become more comfortable with best practices for shooting bricks, eventually we hope to be able to photograph 1 brick per minute. Working 10 hours per day, in shifts, this will yield 600 bricks per day. Working 6 days a week will equal 3,600 bricks per week or 187,000 bricks during the course of Phase I.

Challenges: Some consideration must be given to possible negative health effects, such as back strain from holding a camera for so long each day, and our efforts may be occasionally delayed or hampered by weather. There is also the issue of residents or business owners who might not understand or appreciate what we are trying to do, and might feel threatened and/or forbid us from photographing their residences for personal reasons. There may also be the issue of permits, for parking and operating the boom lift for extended periods, which could potentially increase expenditures significantly. Because of our long experience with photographing large-scale street projects, we are confident we can overcome these and any other challenges that may arise.

Participants: Besides myself, the Project will be administered by Amy Niederhofer, my partner of 12 years and co-creator of the Sidewalk, Stop Sign, and Christmas Tree projects, and Troy Wainwright-Pelvis, co-creator of the Urban Architecture webring. Post-production and website creation will be carried out in a loft space in DUMBO, Brooklyn, provided by Mr. & Mrs. Arnold Niederhofer, of Pompton Lakes, NJ, who will also be loaning us their minivan as needed. We have secured permission to begin The Project using our own loft building as the first subject, and have already received permission to display the building on the website for Niederhofer & Associates Realty, which owns and manages the building, which should greatly enhance the recognition and name value of The Project.

Conclusion: We hope you will agree that The Bricklyn Project is a valuable and important work of historical significance. Upon successful funding, we will immediately embark on a drive to secure similar sponsorship for a companion piece, tentatively titled The Window Project.

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