Mention SoHo to some, and they’ll think of a high-end shopping district overrun with upscale outlets. To others, it might conjure images of exclusive real estate. Still other folks, meanwhile, might think of a once-vibrant community of artists, filled with lofts and galleries. Certain parties might recall its fabled narrow byways once being covered in garish street art.
Regardless of your age and/or sensibility, all of the above is more or less accurate. But a good century before it was any of those things, it was a mercantile neighborhood renowned for its signature cast-iron architecture. The industries that used to dominate the neighborhood are now long gone, and it’s gone through many hills, valleys and permutations since then to become the ludicrously expensive place it is today. But while much of its layers of colorful character and urban wear n’ tear have been scrubbed clean in more recent years, much of its older architectural flourishes still remain … if you look hard enough for the ones not obscured by comparatively artless new construction projects.
Anyway, the only reason I’m boring you with this laborious history lesson is because of the video below. Filmed in 1987 by one Kanal von Balzamico (and how’s that for a name?) with a Super 8 Nizo 560 camera, “SoHo Puzzle” plays a bit like an experimental student film, concentrating on the patterns, textures, ephemera and filigree of classic SoHo architecture. That said, it's not all classic, cast-iron splendor.
It’s cute and fun, but to be honest – there are moments of it that gave me a headache. Regardless, it’s a nice little snippet that reinforces an aspect of what continues to make SoHo special, even if SoHo looks so different today.
On the pathetic, rook-geek fanboy get-a-life front, my favorite part of “SoHo Puzzle” is at 05:56, when he pans across a bit of graffiti extolling the merits of No Wave ensemble, 8 Eyed Spy.
Here’s that band – led by the inimitable Lydia Lunch – playing at Hurrah in 1979…