Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The Campbell Apartments
The Campbell Apartments
When I walked into the Campbell Apartments, a bar located right next to Grand Central, the building felt historical, but not in the traditional way in which a museum or a historical site feels historical. The building, though it was restored in 1999, is made to look like Europe in the early 1900s. The antique-looking furniture, the magnificent large window over the bar, and even the painted ceiling all made me feel like I was no longer in New York City, and no longer in the 21st century.
The historical feel of this building is very different that of the Morris-Jumal mansion as described by Rich Landrigan in a previous blog entry. The Campbell Apartments look as if they belong in some other time period in history; however, it does not represent history because it is not presented as a historical building; its common-place function as a bar negates the historic sensory image of this space. Similarly, Rich pointed out that the White House, though historic, does not appear to be so because it is actively used in the present (and does not function as a museum). The Campbell Apartments loses this historic feeling and instead instills in visitors a more cognizant version of déjà vu, which evokes early 19th century buildings in Europe with similar architecture and decor.
The Columbia University campus with its columns and the philosophers names inscribed into Butler Library also gives off a similar historic feeling to that of the Campbell Apartments.
The Greek and Roman décor of the campus along with the famous philosophers’ names inscribed into Butler Library at once allude to ancient times and the intellectually superior nature of those times. This feeling instilled upon those who visit Columbia University is, in a way, used to legitimize the intellectual authority of Columbia. Furthermore, the inscribed names can be viewed as the same type of symbolic violence of proper names as described by Derrida. When seen, these names force the seer to recall a certain era and the thoughts – true and false – that one has of these philosophers. Moreover, by placing these names on a Columbia building, a misleading association can be made between these philosophers and their connection to Columbia University.
The Campbell Apartments also commits violence by using a proper name because they were never used as apartments. They were used as an office building, which is the more traditional or British meaning of ‘apartments’; however, this is still misleading when used in America.
Lastly, a play on one’s imagination is created by both the Campbell Apartments and the Columbia University campus. For the Campbell Apartments, classy-dressed waitresses in black dresses serve old-fashioned prohibition cocktails, developing the 19th century image of the place. In this sense, the Campbell Apartment business is using one’s idea of history and place to sell an image. By selling this image and making one feel a certain way, they get customers into their store and make a profit. Thus, the advertising campaign and business of the Campbell Apartments is at least partially run off of people’s idea of history and place. I find this quite interesting that a business can be aided by honing in on their historic image and trying to recreate that in each consumer. I would venture to say that other forms of advertisement also focus on the same ideas. Columbia University also does this, but in a slightly different way. The campus imagery helps the university to maintain its high prestige and, therefore, when prospective students visit, they see the image that Columbia has created for them and in a sense feel the validity of the university that Columbia has created by this image.