Article | Uncube Magazine No. 29 | After Dark | Luna Park | Place Without Shadows, Coney Island | Author: Elvia Wilk |
The original inhabitants of Coney Island, the Canarsie Native American Indians, named their then-peninsula the “Place Without Shadows” – a seeming premonition of what it was later to become. After severance from the mainland by a canal in 1750, by the late nineteenth century the promontory at the entrance to New York Harbour was completely transformed into a playground for New Yorkers seeking an escape from the city.
The first section of Rem Koolhaas’ seminal 1978 book Delirious New York is devoted to Coney Island, the prototype for the type of megalomaniac construction characterising his concept of “Manhattanism”. In the book he focuses on Luna Park, one of Coney Island’s first enclosed theme parks, as the epitome of that feverish 24/7 activity made possible by the domination of electric light over the dark. Opened in 1903 by Frederic Thompson, an entrepreneur, and Elmer Dundy, an architecture school dropout, the fenced-in, 15-hectare enclave of Luna Park was meant to resemble a colony on the surface of the moon. Continually expanded over the years, at its high point Luna Park contained 1,000 towers, minarets and domes, adorned with over a million electric lights.