Field Guide to Fences

Fellows Elliott Maltby and Gita Nandan from Thread Collective offer a field guide to fences throughout New York City to show how the barriers we use define our spaces and ourselves, from the mundane to the maddening.

“Walking the blocks around our studio, we found a wide sampling of New York City’s urban fence typologies ranging from the once common car jail to the elusive decorated barricade, with tiny trumpeting elephants. While every New York neighborhood has its own fence characteristics born of variations in culture, zoning and investment, there are identifying traits that can be organized into a taxonomy, a series of creatures that define and constrain NYC streets.

“In their urban habitat, fences create borders both physical and abstract, defining boundaries between public and private, and occasionally creating strange in-between spaces. Sometimes fences make good neighbors but often, there is collateral damage. They go beyond delineating space to creating barriers. These barriers — geographic and psychogeographic — affect how we navigate through the city, understand our neighbors, and determine (and perhaps undermine) our sense of security.”

Read more: The Field Guide to Fences Next City