^ B/W: Photograph series of Armenian bus-stops in The Architecture of Waiting, 1997/2004 by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg.
Colour: Bus-stops in Burgos, Spain. Designed by H&deM, 2011. Photos by Ángel Ayala.
This week my hometown’s newspapers revealed that our recently built bus-stops designed by H&deM are indeed a direct replica of soviet ones erected in Armenia in 1970s. Apart from the banality of this interesting fact, together with the local anger caused by the high fees paid to the architects, I would like to make three small remarks to the excellent argumentation of the architects’ concept in their website:
< Instead of designing a Herzog & de Meuron bus shelter, we were inspired by the work of Ursula Schulz-Dornburg called “The Architectures of Waiting”. It is a series of photographs that she took in 1997 * of bus-stops in Armenia (the oldest Christian Country**). We have recreated some of these bus-stops in polished concrete and galvanized steel. Instead of being simply functional shelters, the beauty of these small structures is how they relate to the human body, and that they are sculptural and somewhat poetic social gathering places***. >
* There is no recognition to the soviet designer of the bus stops in the 1970s, but to the German photographer who took pictures of them in 1997. The inspiration is linked to the book where they were published. The image has completely erased the original architect: fewer problems with copyright in buildings. But it makes sense: if the ultimate author was the Soviet Union and it doesn’t exist anymore, there is total freedom to reuse the idea.
** It seems that the main reason for justifying their decision is that Armenia is the oldest Christian country in the world. Both Spain and Armenia appear to share tight religious connections, even if many Spaniards would have difficulties to locate Armenia accurately in a global map. This is a fantastic argument for copying a soviet bus-stop from the Armenian steppe and pasting it in the ‘Catholic’ Spanish steppe.
*** We copy Armenian bus-stops, even if they might look like ‘simply functional shelters’ (=boring). So H&deM upgrade them by declaring that, although they have almost 1:1 similar shape, they are nonetheless ‘poetic and gathering spaces relating to the human body’. Armenians alike, we are also Christians, so we need to believe it.
^ Berlin, Germany: the medieval monastery, the Baroque castle, the communist Palace of the Republic and the shopping mall replicating the Baroque Stadtschloss. [image via stadtentwicklung]
^ Mexico City, Mexico: the pre-Colombian Tenochtitlán pyramids overlay the Conquistadors’ cathedral and governmental palace. [image via skyscrapercity]
^ Córdoba, Spain: Roman temple – Visigoth church – Muslim Mosque (8th century) – Catholic Cathedral inserted inside the Mosque (13th &16th century). The minaret turned into a bell-tower.
< the mosque’s lamps were melted down to make new bells for the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, 800 km to the north. This probably seemed only fair, since the lamps had themselves been made from Santiago’s original bells: when the Moors had conquered the city in 997 they had dragged the bells to Cordoba and melted them down into lamps. > [source: Bevan, R 2006. The destruction of memory - Architecture at War. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. Image via otraarquitecturaesposible]
In a historical moment when scientific evidence apparently makes showing the picture of Osama bin Laden’s corpse unnecessary, the scene of the crime becomes more relevant than the body itself. The strategy to make people believe in the events goes through carpets with bloodstains, DNA tests and witnesses reports; but the mansion that he dwelled represents the most terrifying evidence of the events that took place inside.
As part of the lecture held yesterday at Goldsmiths, Milica Tomic presented the project Container (2004-2011) dealing with Forensic Performance and Dislocated Events. Tomic is part of the collaborative Grupa Spomenik, who questions the idea of how to dedicate a “Monument” to the victims of the war in former Yugoslavia, in the context of a society whose members still cohabitate with former killers next door. The work of the group almost applies a psychoanalytical therapy to prepare society before building any absurd sculptural institutionalised memorial: first openly discussing and visualizing massacres from the past to later work on peace, understanding it rather as a possible reconciliation. Once this is hypothetically achieved, I wonder whether there would be still a need for a tangible monument or the memorial has already been constructed during this psychological process.
Tomic linked Container to the three categories in which Alain Badiou classifies images of war: the ones presented by both sides of the conflict, the ones presented by one side and the ones that are never shown. She adds a fourth type dealing with a fictional image of a real event implementing Badiou’s classification. A scenography was produced according to the evidence of a crime in Maazar i Sharif in 2001. The massacre was announced in the media only two years later but no single image appeared.
<Container project is a reconstruction of an atrocity that took place in Northern Afghanistan, the massacre of thousand of Taliban prisoners of war by the Northern Alliance, directed by the American invasion troops. Taliban war prisoners were put into container trucks. They were kept without water and air for several days during their trip through the desert. When they started begging for air, the Northern Alliance troops fired upon the containers “in order to make holes for the air to get in”.>
The simulated conditions produce a non-existing war image. The first re-enactment of the Afghan crime took place in Belgrade, Serbia. Members of a local shooting club were hired to impersonate the role of American soldiers. A container was brought to the sports club where 3 of those professional shooters used Kalashnikovs with special bullets to open holes in it. Then, 100 people of downtown Belgrade were invited to enter the “well-ventilated” container.
The type of bullets used (AK-47/7.62×39 mm) had been produced in Bosnia in 1988 and were also used during the war in Kosovo until 1999. “The same bullets were used when bodies of killed ethnic Albanian civilians in freezer containers were transported from Kosovo to Serbia and later dumped into the Danube river.”
By re-enacting a crime in Afghanistan, another invisible crime in Kosovo came automatically visible.
The reconstruction of Container took also place in Armenia and Sydney revealing each time local connections to the global network of violence.
[source&image> Milica Tomic, Container 2004-2011]
Berlin Model Basin (Versuchsanstalt für Wasserbau) is a building attached to a colossal pipe; the ideal home for ship hydrodynamics, applied hydromechanics and ocean, environmental and navigational engineering tests.
Just the opposite to any conventional building process, where space is first conceived and piping is somehow added.Here, the Pipe is the Space.
A facility providing a cavitation tunnel (to test the formation of gas bubbles of a flowing liquid in a region where the pressure of the liquid falls below its vapor pressure) by means of scaled replicas of actual ships. It also houses the deep and shallow water basins, each 120 metres long, where waves are intentionally provoked at a certain frequency, height and amplitude. Every ocean of the world can be reproduced inside it.
The movement of water is eventually what generated a whole construction, its dimensions and its functions. And inside this 1976 fluid house, it is also where mock-up bionic penguins are tested in their swimming technique, so that engineering can learn again from nature. By injecting colour ink in the wings of the robot, researchers can visualize their undulation parameters.
Ships learn from animals and buildings are taught by the water. But Berlin decided in 2004 that after 100 years, they did not need this infrastructure anymore; still trying to overcome a sudden disappearance, the building is prolonging a chronicle of a death foretold. Let’s see what the future learns from it.
[1-7> Berlin Model Basin VWB complex by deconcrete2011][8> Bionic penguin studies by Ingo Rechenberg via Bionik TU Berlin]
Since 1933, a 21-33 m high Christmas tree pops up every year in Rockefeller Center, NewYork. This time,“the 74 foot tree hails from the town of Mahopac (in Putnam County) which is located approximately 50 miles from Manhattan. This year’s tree, a 75 year old Norway spruce, is going to be especially meaningful since it comes from the yard of 9/11 first responder and firefighter Peter Acton.”
The whole operation consists first on finding a donor to support the operation, cut the tree, transport it to downtown, and resettle it by means of a crane. Afterwards, 30,000 lights attached to 8 km of wiring are to be installed from a 8-storey scaffolding covering the whole tree. In 2007, after being taken down, the tree was used as symbolic timber for Habitat for Humanity house construction.
Similar to a standard construction process of a building, but inverted: first the building is just transplanted from elsewhere, and only after it is completely erected, the scaffolding does appear to make it look nicer.
Winter is approaching in Berlin. Nights become longer, and the sun is progressively being replaced by a monotone grey colour. But only 60 km away there is one (ersatz) Tropical Island to be found.
Reported to be the largest self-supported structure in the world, this hangar was built in 2000 to lodge a new prototype of dirigible. After the company went bankrupt, four years later, a Malaysian investment group converted the vast hall into a leisure-oriented artificial ecosystem: a rainforest.
The sliding walls of the airship hangar closed forever. The south façade needed to be glazed to allow daylight inside. An incredible amount of energy started reproducing a constant climate with 28-32ºC inside, around 60% humidity and 28ºC warm waters. A bombastic billboard depicts a Truman-blue sky.
And a piece of Germany is eventually encapsulated, like Buckminster Fuller capturing NewYork.
After the exotic first hour of the journey, excitement turns into sadness. I wonder whether the kids playing with the sand have previously seen a real beach. If not, which one will they actually prefer?
Back in Berlin city, one can easily find warnings written in German, English, French, Turkish and Spanish. In Tropical Islands, it is significant to read them in German, English, Polish and Czech. No Mediterranean visitors apparently. For whom are fakes more real than reality itself then? I guess that when one is used to experience the true Light everyday, dogmas of this paradise inside a cathedral-like dome are just a matter of believing or not believing.
Or maybe simply sun-therapy.
[all images> Tropical Islands in Berlin by deconcrete2010]
Maps can tell us as much about politics and ideology as they do about space. As with any representation, you can’t put it all in; you only include what’s important to you [...] Nations and empires trace borders. The navigation needs of European merchants and explorers determined the shape of Mercator’s familiar world map, which also dramatically minimized the size of Africa and the Tropics. But today, the argument goes, social and economic forces are shrinking the globe and physical location is losing its importance. So if we’re beyond space, what will our new maps look like? [Alex Aylett]
In Antonia Hirsch‘s World map series , the shape of each of the world’s countries is scaled to occupy the same relative area, which is then transformed into a transparent layer. All layers are overlaid, making the centre of the image, which is shared by many countries, highly saturated in colour. Individual shapes are difficult to discern, yet this map’s uncertain borders and ambiguous shape can be understood to describe the territory of the average country.
The same conceptual process is used to conceive her universal Untitled World Flag in 2009, where 200 countries melt with each other through their flags, morphing into one.
[images 1&2> world map, Antonia Hirsch 2006] [image3> untitled universal flag, Antonia Hirsch 2009]
dreaming of everyday lives in impossible landscapes is the task of thomas wrede. Real Landscapes is a series of photographs, which need to be named as Real. This can make us think that these landscapes do really exist, not being a result of photoshop; but also, that landscape concept can be fulfilled by imagining a human coexistence in intricate background, otherwise impossible.
on the other hand, real landscapes may also be urban, like the ones proposed by guerrilla activists Rugwind: the guerrilla bench. If the Wreder’s images reclaim humanity into nature, Rugwind propose humans to experience their environment more naturally. Making the impossible possible, and the ordinary extraordinary, they turned a power box into a sitting corner, which may appear or disappear, according to landscape conditions…
“In 1968 Venturi and Scott-Brown did for Las Vegas what Giambattista Nolli did for Rome in 1748: they revealed the essence of a city by mapping it in a new way.” Rustam Mehta and Thomas Moran have made a new reading of the mega-casino in their essay Casino City State for latest issue on Monu Magazine. Analyzing diverse visitors maps of Las Vegas gambling paradises, they suggest that mega-casino’s true ambition is to be rather a city than a big hotel.
Providing blurred boundaries, omissions of clear main entrances, organic building perimeter, countless facilities & services, transport facilities, artificially controlled eco-system and weather…mega-casinos function as city-planners offering all kind of dreams that the conventional city does not provide.
what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…
[images 1,3&4> Visitor maps of Caesars Palace, MGM & Bellagio casinos in Las Vegas via vegas casino info] [image2> Nolli map of public space Rome 1748 via the blue room] [images 6,7,8&9> interiors of Eiffel, Flamingo, Bellagio and Venetian in Las Vegas by deconcrete2007]
Could a viewing platform be built around a pre-existing suburban housing settlement?
The society of spectacle led to the very pure form of a model-homes showroom, by building fiction the other way around. An abandoned baseball stadium in Osaka was turned in the late 1990s into a Real Estate fair of one-family homes. Next step was to turn this imagined world of commercial housing into a fake green mountain, housing a commercial centre.
Namba Parks was the greenyfied answer to end with the temporally dreamt utopia. An artificial mountain of overlapping bridges, footbridges and terraced consumption. In a way, analog to the underground consumption city to which some metro stations have evolved, such as Shibuya in Tokyo.
If ones grow upwards, the others expand deeper and deeper to the centre of the Earth; the former add soil into the air, the latter add air after extracting soil.
The Simpson’s are a replica of current post-American Dream society.
And a replica of the replica was built 1:1 in the State of Nevada to commemorate the popular series anniversary: their house. Using real architectural codes and language to reproduce cartoon fantasies, it could almost become the suburban pre-fab reference for future suburban developments; what means, real estate copying its own parody, only for USD 120,000.
Walls precede Walls. The longest conveyor belt in the world, located in BouCraa (Western Sahara), is an elevated structure flying phosphates from the mines in the desert to the Atlantic coast. Under a heavy nationalist conflict, the whole territory has experienced countless landscape subdivisions, by means of industry as well as politics.
In the 1970s, this conveyor belt was the main objective for attacks by guerrillas against imposed Moroccan sovereignty. In order to protect it, a series of walls started to be carved out of the sand dunes in successive front lines. The 1980s sculptured the Sahara in continuously changing Berlin Walls dividing pro-independence from pro-king supporters.
Camps may convey militaristic, political and romantic feelings. But in the Western Sahara, it has been one of the most common kind of settlement in last years. Either for refugees, military or industrial workers, camps resulted in a blurred mix of autonomy, control and necessity. [Charlie Hailey: Camps, a guide to 21st-century space].
Turning a hostile territory into dwelling space, camps need to imagine built environments in the middle of aggressive milieus. The spaces of camps are both open and closed; they register the struggles, emergencies and possibilities of global existence as no other space does.
[image1> BouCraa belt conveyor via conveyorbelt] [images2&3> BouCraa camp settlement via googlemaps] [image4>BouCraa settlement in 1975 by jotapebe] [image5> Western Sahara military Walls in the 1980s via academic dictionaries] [image6> Morocco's Wall of Shame via bythefault] [image7> Western Sahara Wall 1980s via the Independent]
Sometimes economy insists on clinging on to lost enclaves.
Fordlandia (Fordlândia) was the beginning of a failed American Dream by Henry Ford in 1928. In the middle of Brazilian jungle, he thought he could settle a piece of Detroit society, to stop depending on British manufacturers of rubber for his T-model wheels.
Although identical clone suburban houses started blossoming among rubber trees for American engineers, life quality did not come together. Despite having ball-room, cinema, school, hair-salon, bakery, informal alcohol suppliers and even brothel, the American Dream, only for a few, ended up with the uprising of agonizing Brazilian slave-like workers. In 1942, the settlement was definetely abandoned.
Another whim of ersatz society was established in Hashima island, Japan in 1916, with the highest concrete building of the country at the time. The island was 6 times more overcrowded than nowadays Tokyo. Based on an intensive coal-mining activity, Mitsubishi entrepreneur set up another failed utopia there.
Lacking of basic private (intimate) space, dwellers inhabited 10m2 sleeping cells with shared bathrooms. However, entertainment services were also provided, such as swimming pool, kindergarten, clinic, temple, and again as in Fordlândia, a brothel. Since they could not chop rubber trees down to make space for new uses, roofs were the only spheres for expanding personal autonomy.
In 1975, coal was not profitable anymore, and Hashima was abandoned; recently it is experiencing a phase of photography-aficionados tourism.
[Images1&2> googlemaps] [Rest of images> spiegel.de]