The handicap of a new museum is just that, that it’s ‘new.’ It has not yet gone through the ritual of day-to-day life in the city. It takes time for a building to be loved and adopted by the city.
A work of architecture in the city is traditionally regarded as belonging to one of two types, either a monument or a part of the fabric. The monument celebrates momentous events, perpetuates foundational myths or aggrandizes the humanities of celebrated individuals; the fabric is everything else and creates the context in which monuments can exist. The monuments are symbols, “exemplary” and artificial moments in the city. Precisely because their role is to perpetuate certain conditions, they are deprived of the possibility of changing—ergo all that stone and bronze. Unchanged, they are confident and certain, the architectural equivalent of an unshakable conviction, of pure faith, they are lifeless. Life is happening elsewhere in the doubt, confusion and chaos that can typically be found in the city’s fabric.
The Maya Ruins at Palenque, Mexico, c. 1000 CE
Palenque, not unlike several other Maya and comparable sites, makes a striking case for the sociological distinction between “ruin” and “blight.” Neglected sites engender curiosity or disgust in relation to their historic and age value made manifest in the quality of their materials and design.
Map of the Maya Ruins at Palenque, Mexico, c. 1000 CE
Vast swaths of the ruins at Palenque remain a mystery to archaeologists and architectural historians, shrouded by thick, ancient strata of forest.
Having despaired of the world, of the fear, of the blood, the only refuge left to us was the earth. We buried ourselves alive.
Architecture is no longer the construction of city but, like a new branch of physics, the outcome of the dynamics of force fields of perpetual motion, that precious professional alibi of the architect - the mystical ‘spark’ of inspiration - is obviously outdated.
I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream beneath the sea, known and favoured by a nightmare cult ready and eager to loose them upon the world whenever another earthquake shall heave their monstrous stone city again to the sun and air.
It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-afternoon, in the clangour of the metropolis, and in the teeming midst of a shabby and commonplace rooming house with a prosaic landlady and two stalwart men at my side.
Often when we talk about cities we talk about architecture, architecture, building, building. But the city is really a sense of one community.