Friday, March 7, 2008

Strange Thing

This strange disembodied spire sits in the little park off Hoxton Square. Presumably it is the remains of a destroyed church and acts as a kind of memorial. I couldn't find out the day I took the picture as the park was locked. It reminded me of a story I heard about Peter Palumbo, the developer of the Mansion house site (now occupied by the James Stirling designed No. 1 Poultry), who kept the cupola of the demolished Mappin and Webb building on a spike in the grounds of the Farnsworth House, which he owned at the time. Through this act of violence - a kind of venal developer version of Gordon Matta Clark - Palumbo managed to turn a piece of architecture into a piece of art, or at least a piece of representation. Because a fragment of a building is no longer a building exactly, but a representation of an absent building. Jonathon Hill has argued that the Barcelona pavilion became a piece of art when it was knocked down. Experienced solely through iconic black and white photos (until it was re-constructed in the 1980's) it was consumed not as a live building but through the pages of art history. Adolf Loos thought that the only buildings with claims to art were the tomb and the monument. A little (or large depending on where you stand) part of architecture always wants to be experienced this way, as a piece to be contemplated at a distance. By amputating bits off them, making them practically useless, buildings become fetishised as objects of contemplation.

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