The Guided Tours at Urban Horizons
By Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
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The Guided Tours at Urban Horizons is part of my ongoing series of collaborative projects involving people in their personal spaces. This project with the residents of Urban Horizons reveals the relationship between the buildings thoughtful spaces and the building of their own lives. With the help of superintendent Tony Sosa, I asked five residents Narcissa, Isaura, Norma, Tony and Frances to guide me through the spaces in their apartments where they felt most comfortable and most at home. I hope those who view these photographs and read the excerpts from the residents discussions of home can feel the importance thoughtfully planned housing plays in their lives. These are rare places where they can allow their individual identities to grow and flourish. What my tour guides share with us is both valuable and essential, and I thank them.
I came here from a shelter. All my life, I lived in Manhattan. I didnt want to come to this part of the Bronx, for real, I didnt. I feel safe, though, I really do feel safe. We have security, we have a doorman. The apartment is beautiful, its cozy, its quiet, I love it.
The most special room is my living room. I just sit there, I can sit at the table and I make my phone calls, I open my windows, I see outside. When I moved in, I started working on my living room
So, I went to Ikea, you know, which is a great department store
Wow, they have so much nice stuff and they make things that help you organize your things just so neatly. Its so homey and
its just beautiful. So, I got some of my ideas there when I found out about the store. I didnt know that they had such stores. I would go to these stores around here, Third Ave., and their furniture is expensive and its no good. It started there, little by little. That store just gave me little ideas.
I love my living room. I love just the way it is, the way Ive made it, that my family, we eat here and we have dinner here. We watch TV, we watch [the] History channel together
its cozy. Its just homey. Thats why I did the living room first, thats where I put all my energy. I mean, I have help from my children, but you know
I didnt have those couches, theyre brand new. I didnt have my mirror; I didnt have any of that. I just had the wall unit and the table; those are the only things I had. I had other couches, which I got rid of. And then, this Christmas, I finally bought the clock, the mirror, the little decorations that are on the wall, the sofas, and other little things, to decorate. Norma
This is just me. I love this, I love cleanliness. I didnt have this! Little by little, Ive gotten this. I didnt have all this when I got here.
I made all this happen for me. This is my space, this is my home. This is where my children
Im nourishing my children. So its important to me, my environment here.
This is my kitchen. I love cooking. I do everything here. Its perfect for me. Its small, but I put in so much love toward what I do when I cook.
The house reflects the person I am. It reflects so much of what I do. I always keep everything clean, always, always, always. Norma
My daughters amazing. The drawings that she makes are incredible. And now my son wants to be an architect. The school that he goes to is very good, and they gave me a flyer for free classes at 91st Street and Columbus Avenue and he gets three hours, Saturdays, of free classes of art, cause he wants to be an architect. Hes in sixth grade, so by the time he graduates and goes to high school, hes going to have his portfolio.
I had my daughter when I was so young, I know. Although, I never missed teachers conferences with her, and I was always so attentive with her, always motivated her and always praised her to do whatever she wanted... She graduated high school at the age of seventeen and she went right away to FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology].
With my son, Im doing things a little differently, because I knew my daughter had a talent, but Cindy wasnt ready, she didnt have a portfolio. I wasnt educated about what to do
and I was so young. I didnt know, because Im learning. Its a process, learning. Its a process and its as you go, and its different stages, so now, with Marcos
I go to Barnes and Nobles with him, I buy him an architecture book. It was expensive, but, he wants to do that, he wants to look at different ideas, so Im trying to help him.
To help them, its a process, and also to motivate them, its important, and thats why I always try to always keep my home like this, because I think it also helps the child want to do other things, bigger things and better things, and feel comfortable and feel free.
I feel calm here, I feel at ease, I could think better, analyze. You know... Norma
The kitchen, take a look at the kitchen. Look at this. If you have company, you take these glasses and stuff out of the way, and you could pass the food, through there, so you dont have to be walking back and forth. I mean, its nice. I love to cook
everything. Rice and beans, steaks, you know what I mean; I like cooking.
See, these are Christians snacks. He loves his snacks. He comes home from school cheese and crackers
I make him comfortable. He doesnt even like to go in the street, because he has everything here. I bought him a bicycle. He has friends, but hes an inside person. He has everything! Hes got his computer, everything. He feels comfortable, you know what I mean? And hes a good kid. Not because hes my son, but because hes a nice kid.
You see the cabinets. You got cabinets! And I have them full, too! You know, in case of a snowstorm or you know, whatever. You got to keep food in the house. If we didnt have all these cabinets, where are you going to put your food? I mean, where? Or your pans and pots? You keep everything in order, see? How comfortable can you get? I mean, Ive been in this country all my life, you could say, since I came here when I was twelve
How comfortable can anybody get? I walk in here, and Im home. Tony