19 July 2015

Unbuilding (Slight Return)

As another Zaha Hadid stadium becomes the object of criticism and controversy, at the Citylab site, contributor Kriston Capps bluntly concludes:

"No place with real oversight can commit itself to the surreal developments that mega-events entail today. The bid process is a game rigged to favor totalitarian countries, where costs and corruption and the lives of workers are idle concerns. This is a game democracies can’t win, and it’s not the fault of any architect. Instead of competing within this system, Western nations must pressure the International Olympic Committee (and FIFA as well) to accept and endorse bids that are realistic and healthy for cities.

"And if they won’t accept that, these groups should find the most god-awful corner on earth and build a permanent site for the Olympics and World Cup there, once and for all."

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Art historian Dora Apel on contemporary imagery of urban ruins, and the narratives suggested by ruin porn's unanimous preference for a "Neutron Bomb School of Photography" framing of urban ruination and decay:

"Hence the paradoxical appeal of ruin imagery: as faith in a better future erodes, the beauty of decay helps us cope with the terror of apocalyptic decline. In the cultural imagination, the idea of Detroit has come to serve as the repository for the nightmare of urban decline in a world where the majority of people live in cities.
"Detroit ruin imagery also serves another function — it geographically circumscribes and isolates the anxiety of decline, making the predominantly African-American city a kind of alien zone. The ubiquitous photos of derelict skyscrapers, churches, businesses, and homes, and abandoned factories like the Packard Plant — the nation’s largest ruin — are repeatedly compared to war zones, hurricane wreckage, and the aftermath of a nuclear explosion." 
 "If the victims of the city’s decline disappear, the discourse of ruination becomes one about architecture and landscape and the city’s inevitable “reclamation” by nature, whether that means a return to a pre-civilized state or the emergence of a new ecological idyll. Photography that focuses only on the beauty of decay in architecture thus distances the viewer from the effects of decay on people and obscures the ongoing crisis of poverty and unemployment. 
"This effacement of the populace also reflects and reinforces their invisibility to corporations and the capitalist state, who helped create the patterns of ghettoized, racialized poverty that have long prevailed in the city while simultaneously absolving themselves of any responsibility."

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Certainly the death of something or other, one would sort of have to think.

image: Kikuji Kawada, "The A-Bomb Memorial Dome and Ohta River," from the series The Map:
Hiroshima 1960-65

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