Opportunistic Remnants for a Shared Dream

Written by Nivedita Huple

Are things worth noticing
only once they are broken?


The late 19th and 20th century formed paradigms, with modernism promoting a specific set of values like discipline, progress and order. With these in place the urge to negate death as an embodiment of chaos became more frantic. What was thought-provoking was the passage of time itself, everything having a cycle; a beginning and an end; it is this very end of things that creates these objects that can no longer fulfil their primary function. Many times, we do not know what to do with these leftovers; possibly for some, they become nostalgic relics and for others, a nuisance. Let’s just consider all the ruins around, all these buildings that have fallen and left behind traces of what they once used to be. They become the symbol of a growing consciousness of the darker, more uncertain and highly confusing aspects of modernity itself, changing the way we see. What is difficult to grasp at times is how they have become pieces of unintentional artworks that provoke seditious notions and behaviours, a different way of using space, and an eccentric approach to architecture and design. In the world that we now live in, urban developments are made for complete efficiency and passive consumption; in the midst of all of this, ruins become architectural pieces that no longer meet functional requirements or even financial demands.

So maybe that is exactly what we require: a collective dream for something outside of what has been planned for them. 

Inherently once buildings stop meeting the required expectations, society dictates that they be dealt with. This becomes an integral part of modern values. The modern values that get translated into architecture, such that any time a building collapses or is near collapse, it is either completely dismantled or renovated. Refuting these values is Lebbeus Woods, whose third principle on architecture: “Post-war city must create the new from the damaged old” builds something off of the traces that were left behind. This exemplifies how ruined buildings can be salvaged by reconstructing them as to integrate people’s experience of destruction into required architectural changes. These buildings that no longer fulfil their primary function can become places for people to dream in. The post-war buildings become places to deal with collective trauma, sorts of therapeutic spaces, making these ruins not just tools but also sources for inspiration, making them something worth listening to.

The new function does not need to mirror the past, but rather take its traces and transform it into something that brings out relief.

Modern values dictating the order of things do not have to become impositions on these remains. Such principles, of transforming the familiar old, into the unfamiliar new is the very relief we seek from the scripted and controlled context that we now seem to live in. By creating such spaces, we create pockets of freedom, bubbles that people assign the uses to themselves and create a curative process. This helps one reflect over the modern values of mortality that otherwise are not found in the planned cities we now walk in. It makes us confront the notion of death and temporality, something that modern values tend to pull us away from.

This is NOT about letting a city die. Rather it is about the humbling and at times disturbing sensation of abandoned buildings that can create a welcome relief from our increasingly scripted experience of urban spaces. This is about finding out if we can have such derelict buildings in the midst of popular cities and give something more to the residents. It is not only about creating an experience for yourself, but rather changing the collective stigma usually attached to spaces and becoming conscious of them. Building in such conditions is not
what we otherwise encounter, and once their deficiency becomes apparent, it gains the attention of the onlookers. Before it reached that stage, the building goes without notice, it was normal and not given more than a second thought, but as soon as it started crumbling, people became aware of it. This awareness creates a stand against our “average-everyday” understanding of the world which makes it about stating that maybe structures that no longer fulfil their primary function, that are aimless and broken, could be just the kind of humble spaces we need to collectively feel the human touch again. This sense of awareness for the everyday beings around us is Heidegger’s principle of ‘Ready-to-Hand’ where he brings to thought that to comprehend the question of existence, state of BEING, one should not fall into forgetting existence as it so often happens...

Are things worth noticing only once they are broken?