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Victoria Tentler-Krylov’s “Sidewalk Connoisseurs” | The New Yorker


New York may be a city where a person can, for the amount one might reasonably expect to pay for a month’s rent in many parts of this country, partake in an hours-long omakase experience featuring toro topped with osetra caviar and uni served with white truffle. Its temples of art may house some of the most renowned—and well-insured—art in the world. But it is also a city that embraces the epicure of the hot dog and the patron of the sidewalk artist. I recently spoke to this week’s cover artist, Victoria Tentler-Krylov, about city planning and sketching people on the subway.

You studied urban design and were a practicing architect. How does design affect people living in cities?

Public spaces that work tend to have a handful of magic ingredients: water, a mix of different scales, greenery. Their designs are attentive to sound, provide a feeling of being open and sheltered at the same time, and, above all, give people places to pause and watch others. New York has no shortage of incredible public spaces, but, often, longtime residents are displaced by shiny new spaces that attract only visitors. An ideal design process should involve residents to help design spaces that can become more than tourist destinations.

You grew up in St. Petersburg before moving to New York City. What do you like about each of these places?

The two cities couldn’t be more different. St. Petersburg is a city of classical architecture, with an enormously wide river flanked by stone embankments, grand open spaces, and impressive vistas. It is incredibly beautiful but can also feel cold and solitary. New York has always felt like a huge jolt of energy to me, mostly because of the fascinating diversity of people living in close proximity to each other. When I first moved to New York, my favorite thing was to ride the subway and just stare at my fellow-passengers. Sometimes I would sketch them. I still love to do that, and it’s a lot easier these days to get away with it, because no one raises their eyes from their phones.

Are there parallels between working as an architect and as an artist?

Designing and planning three-dimensional spaces is more left-brained, but when I was presenting architectural projects, I would sketch to help my clients visualize the space and how people would experience it. It’s more immediate than computer renderings and also much more fun. I became a magician in their eyes.

Your work reminds me of classic Russian children’s books. Are there any in particular that inspired you?

There are so many! In the seventies and early eighties, the era that produced most of my favorite Russian picture books, printing was very expensive. I think this forced illustrators to be economical and efficient with their line, and very creative with their use of white space.

A picture book that my family loves—we have a copy that’s been passed down through generations—is “Pochta,” which is Russian for “post,” by Samuel Marshak, illustrated by Fedor Lemkul. It’s a gorgeous book about a letter addressed to someone who is always travelling. The letter ends up chasing after him from country to country—it’s an ode to different cities all over the world.

See below for other covers that celebrate the pleasure of hot dogs:



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