Yukie is currently designing and building a portable historical society that can navigate the bustling urban environment of today’s SoHo while showing a glimpse of its past. Using unconventional media such as Viewmaster viewers and a smell station, she will chronicle the evolution of SoHo from rural farmland to high-end retail hub, charting its cycles of development and thus placing current day SoHo in the context of New York City’s history.
When she was growing up in SoHo, she remembers walking down desolate streets. There were no stores or restaurants, but she felt safe because everyone who lived there knew each other. She learned how to ride a bike in her house. And she also often slept in her coat because her family didn’t have heat after 5 pm.
When people think of SoHo today, they think of high-end shopping and expensive lofts. Nobody thinks of it as a tight-knit community where children roamed free and people actually knew and liked their neighbors. That was the SoHo of Yukie’s childhood. That was the SoHo out of which ideas such as the adaptive reuse of buildings and loft living were born, ideas that influence how we live today.
SoHo has no neighborhood society dedicated to preserving its history, and as a SoHo naitve, born and raised, who still lives there, she knows it deserves one. She is raising her daughter, Hanako, there. Hanako is a third generation SoHo kid, and Yukie wants her to know where she came from, where her mother came from, and where her grandmother came from.
Working in partnership with The Uni Project, a nonprofit dedicated to creating pop-up learning experiences across the city, I hope that this exhibition will be just the first step in finding a permanent home for The SoHo Memory Project.
At the forefront of a new wave in exhibition design, the cart for this roving exhibition will be adapted from designs for portable reading rooms created for the Uni Project by Höweler + Yoon Architecture and operated by the Uni Project across New York City today.
Yukie’s long-term plan is for The SoHo Memory Project to have a physical space where people can come to learn more about her neighborhood. But before she can apply for grants to sustain her project for the long-term, she need to produce something tangible that she can bring to funders to demonstrate my knowledge and commitment.
“If we preserve SoHo’s past,” Yukie explains, “present generations will understand our neighborhood’s rich history, and this understanding will inform how we all shape its future.”