Monday, March 30, 2015

The Architectural Uncanny

"The contemporary sensibility that sees the uncanny erupt in empty parking lots around abandoned or run-down shopping malls, in the screened trompe l’oeil of simulated space, in, that is, the wasted margins and surface appearances of postindustrial culture, this sensibility has its roots and draws its commonplaces from a long but essentially modern tradition."
 Anthony Vidler


There is probably nothing else that has so defined my life, apart from love and depression, as the uncanny. Its something I have chased all my life. From a very young age, I wanted that same feeling as I had when I heard ghost stories told by my family- I wanted that wonderful sense of dread, wrapped up in safety. Something about that is just necessary for my mind. 

And the uncanny is literally defined as something that occurs in the most banal of environments. It isn't necessarily just a spooky building- its the fact that that spooky building is on a quite ordinary street. Its the juxtaposition, that tension. That sense of the surreal and spooky sidled up next to the almost grossly familiar. 

Even before I fell in love with business architecture (and by definition, in this context, disused business architecture) I remember a dream I had as a very young child, not more than five. It was so vivid. I was in a city, at night, and there was a skyscraper, with some of the offices inside lit up. The most ordinary thing. But in the dream it was absolutely breathtaking. There was involved by strange association, a potted palm. The type you find in lobbies, the type that by definition are probably not even real. I had a set of Childcraft Encyclopedias (bless them, with their wonderful sixties typography, psychedelic woodcuts and visions of cities of the future, glowing in a white-glitter utopia) and there was picture of a clown on a small stage with a potted palm. It looked so- weird to me. So night-like. The dark stage which I could see behind the fake wall. Every time I thought of that skyscraper dream, I thought of that potted palm.

So strange, like a piece of candy thrown into the junk drawer of your mind, adhering itself to other strange symbols. 

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