Thursday, November 8, 2012

Part Two: Ruined

My powerful childhood experiences left a strong flavor in my memory like Proust’s “petites madeleines.” Consequently, throughout my life I have been drawn towards ruined spaces whether it was the wasteland of mills in Hazelwood or a neglected east side Canal Street platform. Over the years, my juvenescent fascination has developed into a desire to re-evaluate the nature of derelict spaces.

What are we to make of these withered stumps of time that have become a part of the city’s existing condition? I hope to pursue an understanding of urban decay by conducting research that will present us with an opportunity to know what these spaces have become, and what potential they hold.

Sadly, as it currently stands our ability to decide how we should judge the potential that voids and wastelands hold is deeply impaired. The reason being that the unclaimed buildings and the un-authorized activities that occur in them are generally divided by society into opposing binaries. Most often it is a positive or negative lens that is used. One side equates urban decay with dereliction, social decline and waste. The other side represents ruined sights as places of inspiration, a repository of memory, generators of creativity, places of habitation and performance. It is a limiting viewpoint that blocks the way to inquiry (i.e. to understanding these buildings or studying their current and potential use), and in turn prohibits growth (i.e. the possibilities that these structures contain good or bad)—one that should be challenged.

My time at the Rock has shown me that the rusting mills and deserted sooty brick houses have great potential—one that cannot be simply seen as good (the buildings are a beacon for creative spirits) or bad (the buildings are decrepit and dangerous). Put another way, the possibilities that exist within these structures cannot be divided into two groups that are separated by an immaculate border. Instead, the two categories should be seen as distinct but connected—an ambiguous tension in an ever-shifting realm.

What type of study will present us with an opportunity to know what these spaces have become and what potential they hold? I believe if we are to see the space as it is, with its complex layers of interaction between the built environments, the derelict and the wild then it is crucial to start from where we are. One-way to address the question is by determining what kind of activity the space invites. Ergo, my next step is to attempt to discern what types of activities the bottom of the rock solicits.


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful photos! One note, though. I don't know anything about the area. I'm wondering if you could position this site more in a historic or investigative framework. Is there a history to this site, possibly as to why it is abandoned and is falling into this state of decay? I find your personal connection to the site really intriguing and adds another level of depth to your analysis, but make sure it doesn't cloud its history.