in New York

“Twenty-five thousand people walk by here every day, and this is why I bought this apartment, because of this sense of being open to the city". Olya has knocked down the walls, raised the curtains, removed the barriers: "It’s like being part of the city, of its show", she says.

Olya in New York

“How to host the city every night”.

Listen to the story told by the author, Flavio Soriga

   Olya greets me with a smile when I enter her apartment. She’s beautiful, striking, dressed with minimal elegance, as I imagine they might write in a fashion magazine. Everything is minimal in this big kitchen, where “less is more” seems to be inscribed in looming letters on the wall. I assume this precept is also Olya’s rule for living: clothing, décor, food, conversation, shopping, getting upset... Everything. Olya’s partner is tall with short hair, just finishing a late breakfast; he makes a cup of black coffee and heads out. It seems like a normal home, but it’s not. It would be were it not for the living area past the kitchen, with space that opens onto a far from normal street. Before becoming a street, this was an elevated rail road that spurred the westside of Manhattan. Today, it is a globally-renowned park - one of the places you simply must visit in New York, a living monument to the railroad architecture of the 1930s revived as a long promenade throughout the westside of the city. Its name is High Line Park, and it passes right by Olya’s living room.

   “Twenty-five thousand people walk by here every day, and this is why I bought this apartment, because of this sense of being open to the city. It is a continuing exhibition; I wake up, make coffee and eat my breakfast there, in front of the people passing by and looking towards my direction. It recharges me, the energy that arrives from the street makes me feel good. Curtains, in the southern European country where I come from, are considered necessary in every home. Even in towns where everybody knows everybody, it is important for homes to be individual islands or sanctuaries. Curtains are like walls, they keep out envious gazes, evil spirits and gossip. We have to hide what is happening inside the home, which should never reach the prying eyes of outsiders. ‘Genti allena’, my grandmother said in our native tongue, to indicate those who weren’t family to not lay eyes on us unless they were invited, unless we had had the chance to prepare ourselves for their coming”. Olya, on the other hand, has knocked down the walls, raised the curtains, removed the barriers. She chooses to live in one part of the apartment as though it was a constant performance. She has accepted the idea that the gazes of others can constantly alight her corner of the home with life. “It’s like being part of the city, of its spectacle”, she says. “It is an interactive way of living. We decided – my partner and I – to offer this exhibition space to our friends. We organize theme dinners; people have fun, and everyone gets a bit crazy at our parties. Sometimes the living room wall becomes a screen, we project works by young artists we love.

   People pass by, they take pictures, lingering to watch us - as if they too were guests, as if this apartment was simply part of the spectacle of the city”. Olya arrived in New York twenty-five years ago and she feels like a New Yorker. As a director of documentary films, she knows that whatever the future holds in store for her, NYC will always be the place she will return to. “This house has been a microcosm of the city; it is as though I too could finally offer something to this community that has given me so much art, beauty and energy. I saw lots of apartments before this one, some were designed by great architects, but none of them could offer what this space does. The others were just beautiful homes, but this is a unique place, a new performance with every passing day”. Everyone can take part in watching her public, domestic spectacle. Just go up to the High Line Park above Chelsea Market, walk a few minutes and stop in front of Olya’s apartment. You’ll be ‘genti allena’ but your gaze will be welcome, as if you had a hand-written invitation.

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