Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Roof Life

"I live on the ninth floor, at the top of the building. The seventy-foot loft has six windows in the three rooms looking to the west (salon, bathroom, bedroom) and two in the library to the east.  It is a viewing box, or so I take it to be."

Yale University Press recently published Roof Life by Svetlana Alpers. Much of the book is taken up with the author's observations of the many rooftop water towers (and their shadows) visible from the place she bought some years ago in Lower Manhattan.

"The towers are not relics of time past. They are industrial survivors. They have been in use as water tanks since the 1840s, required by city codes since about 1900, and are produced and in use today. Each individual has a life expectancy of thirty years or more. Day after day they are filled, emptied out, and refilled with water for the use of the people in the buildings on which they stand. The wood starts light and darkens with age. In winter a bit of water leaking out between the unsealed planks forms icicles. In spring and summer, green moss sprouts here and there on the surface. When they get old, they are taken down and new ones are built to replace them."