It is a perverse moment during international conflicts when domestic structures are disassembled for a state’s own munitions. The year 1789 witnessed the melting of the bells of Notre Dame to make cannon. After the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, the iconic Trylon and Perisphere were deconstructed for the production of WWII armaments. Endless quantities of architectural ornamentation across the Allied Powers were removed in the 1940’s for war efforts. These acts embody such a simple twist: take a stand by taking something that stands. It is as if the built manifestation of a people’s ideals transform into invisible artillery for the preservation of its underlying ideologies -- as if the crystallized structures have all along been peaceful arms preserving an identity against other cultures.
I like to study how our environment tells stories about not only its inhabitants, but its creators, its viewers, and its inheritors. I believe the permanence and slow pace of building holds a mirror to the rapid and continuous unfolding of our current affairs. Never static, our built environment continuously changes even when its physical stature seems fixed; from initial conception and construction to interpretation and patina (and sometimes destruction), what surrounds us shifts with us. In other words, what goes up around us changes much more than we think.
In light of this, I’d like to run a small experiment. I run an online project called “Empty Canon” that assembles architectural projects -- some hypothetical, some real, some offensive, some banal -- and continuously reorganizes to reflect our changing interpretations. I’d like to add a special section for The Listserve!
What’s the most interesting building you’ve ever seen? If you send me a name and/or image of a building in the world around you (and architect if you know her/him) I will add it to the Empty Canon index (with your credit, of course). The results will be tracked in a special area for The Listserve to follow. Send me your tired, your poor, your colossal, your small, your overwhelming, your extravagant, your functional…
And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my love, Emily, who introduced me to The Listserve.
New York City