The Rock: An Authentic Ascent

This blog is part of an exchange between students at Stanford and CCNY, for their studies in the rhetoric of architecture, space and tourism.

“Please don’t feed the birds!” the announcement blasted over the bow packed with eager tourists trying to steady themselves as the Rock nudged the boat. Towering above the tempestuous bay, the fortress-like prison came into view. We, Cindy, Wyatt, and Jon, gathered up our belongings and with deep anticipation got off the ship. The moment we stepped onto the island a wave of fear and dread crashed upon us. Here was the Rock. Here was where prisoners met their fate: a sentence to be served on Alcatraz.

We anxiously ascended the thirteen-story trail that zigzagged toward the cell house. Upon seeing the structure, Wyatt announced, “Oh, the intensity of Alcatraz!” Cindy exclaimed similarly, “It’s white and has bars. How excruciating it must have been to look out at beautiful San Francisco everyday through their barred windows!”

We began the audio tour of the prison. Voices of prisoners past filled our ears. We were taken back to the early 20th century. We walked in the footsteps of the notorious American gangster Al Capone and the infamous murderer “The Birdman.” We listened to the harrowing stories of the bloodiest escape attempt in the history of American penitentiaries: the Battle of Alcatraz. We saw the pockmarks of where the military had attempted to subdue the uproar. We were there.

Entering into D-block, we subjected ourselves to the solitary confinement cells. The fear that had previously been suffocating us grew in intensity as we were enveloped in the darkness of the solitary confinement cells.

This was authentic. Like a replica of H.G. Wells’s time machine, the audio tour drew us back in time. In front of us lay scenes of prisoners’ sufferings. The groaning split our ears. Our hearts were torn asunder by their pain. We all agreed that this was the epitome of authenticity.

We stepped back onto the boat headed across the bay, headed back toward freedom.

Wyatt, Cindy, and Jon

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This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Stanford-CCNY, Fall 2010: Interrogating Architecture ||. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Rock: An Authentic Ascent

  1. Renjen J. and Alfred L. says:

    We find it interesting how the island Alcatraz differs from the island of Manhattan in NYC. According to this blog, we get the impression that Alcatraz is a lonely, abondoned place that is haunted by the prisoners of Alcatraz. It sounds as if you guys really understood what it felt like to be an Alcatraz prisoner. Alhough, we find it hard to believe that this place is really as dark as you guys described it to be.
    On the other hand, Manhattan is a place of excitement, fun, and happiness. If you are coming here as a tourist, there is much to see and experience. For example, you can marvel at the height of the Empire State Building or stand in front of the Statue of Liberty face to face. If you are a student, you can learn so much by going to the many museums scattered thoughout the city. Personally, we recommend going to the Museum of Natural History because it holds information about almost everything. If you are planning to commute aound te city, then the subway system is the answer because it is connected to every part of the city. All you have to do is hop on the train and get off at your stop. You should not even think about using automobiles because the city is increasingly congested with traffic and parking space does not exist when it comes to this city. For the disabled, the city creates spaces in a way that adapts to treating them as normal people. NYC makes everyone happy.
    NYC is also a great place to just walk around in. In our FIQWS course, the instructor took the class to many fascinating public space in NYC. The trip to the highline was awesome. It was used as a railroad track a long time ago, but now it used as a public space. Many people come there to just relax and enjoy the vast view. The walk through the space was very peaceful. The space had seats that were attached to the railroad tracks on the side. If you pushed it, it would roll on the track. It was just something that was out of the ordinary. As you walked through the pathway, you could see many buildings ha caught your eye. One of the buildings was shaped like a chipped ice sculpture. Another trip that the class went to was around 59th street-Columbus Circle. The space literally had the shape of a circle. In the middle, there was a beautiful, circular sitting area that had water fountains on the side. There were two tall, black buildings in front of the space. On the opposite side, there was central park. Central Park is an all natural area enclosed in a large rectangle. In the front of the park, there are people performing many acts such as magic tricks. The class also waled by the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Guggenheim Museum. The architecture of the Guggenheim museum was very intriguing because it is shaped like a snail shell. If you ever come to NYC, you should check out these fascinating places and experience its spaceness.

  2. Jon(Stanford) says:

    Thank you for your response. I’m actually from Westchester County (just north of New York City), so I know the city pretty well. It definitely sounds like you too have your ear on the city’s heartbeat. From the museums to the parks, New York City really is a lively, fascinating destination for tourists, college students, and even residents. Even with an unlimited amount of time, I’m not so sure you could see and experience everything New York City has to offer! Enjoy your stay there!

  3. Wyatt Bunce says:

    I think you are correct in your response to our portrayal of Alcatraz. While it is a very dark and eerie place, we boosted the fear that the rock instilled in us in our writing. However, before we went on our tour we wanted to think about what emotions the National Park Service was targeting in we tourists. In order to illustrate to you what emotions they were targeting, we wanted to amplify the intensity of our emotions. In doing so, we can more effectively give you an understanding of what sort of feelings they were targeting in us.

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