An Urban History
Postwar Landscape refers to the political landscape of the late 20th Century, a landscape that reflects the settlement reached at the end of the second world war. This exhibition looks at the way in which this landscape has been manifested in the urban structures of the cities most affected by the realignments of the era. The sculptures in this exhibit look backwards and forwards in time, recreating and reconstructing the past and imagining the future. Alongside the urban forms that have seen the greatest change are the two principle power players, Moscow and Washington DC, the former seen through 3 centuries of development, the latter as an imagined future. Washington DC, modeled on Hausman’s Paris exhibits the classic radial and concentric power form of the autocratic European city of the past. Capitol of the new empire and the only city within that new world to have this design, projects and carries forward European power and ambition in to the 20th and 21st Centuries. Moscow and most particularly Washington DC have been the two most significant cities in determining the outcomes, changes and alterations in the other urban forms present in this collection.
“Cities bring together culture and ideas, convert human power in to form, energy in to civilization, they are like brains directing and developing civilzed life” Joel Kotkin The organism of a city is a distinct entity that has been shaped by social, political, economic and topographic factors and is illustrative of the systemic patern of human civilzation. Sometimes catastrophe befalls the urban organism, civlization breaks down either from internal forces or external ones. The cities selected here represent some of the most extreme examples of cataclysmic change. Some cities endured almost complete destruction, total in the case of Hiroshima, all were rebuilt eventually. To this collection I intend to add the cities of Beirut, Kabul, Hamburg and Dresden.
The sculptures present a layered historical approach to the evolution of the contemporary city organism, past incarnations of the urban form are contained within them. The key periods in history of division and change are incorporated, the past is reconstituted and made visible once more.
The sculptures of Warsaw, Berlin, Baghdad and Israel all contain boundary lines and divisions. Berlin most famously illustrating the ideological divide of the postwar coldwar with the infamous wall, now mostly erased from the contemporary urban form of today’s Berlin. The desperate period of segmentation and the ghetto is shown in the underlying layer of Warsaw, wheras the fabric of contemporary Baghdad reveals all the ethnic, religious, military and political divisions on the surface. The complex sculpture of Israel reveals the careful fragmentation and division of space that has gone in to the creation of modern Israel. The sculpture contains all the boundary lines and walls of the last 70 years, going back to the period before the state of Israel in the 1930s.
The paper sculptures of Hiroshima and Washinton DC reverse the approach of the urban infrastructure sculptures. These works concentrate on the the spaces in between the street lines, the lived in sites. Creating a sort of stripped down abstract architecture, the urban form presented as an idealized and utopian type of non architecture. “Utopias usually replace the missing parts or at least substitute or compensate for them in an image of plenitude. They make good historical failures or social inequities or psychic trauma. Utopias have always been a good way to think your way out of a present that is lacking in the direction of a future that wil be better (and so often merges with an imagined past that was better)” Briony Fer. The empty forms of the pure white spaces avoid associations with memory, carrying no trace of the past, just empty vessels that can contain the imagination of memory. a sort of non architecture. Hiroshima can in many ways be seen as a memorial to the citizens who inhabited and lived within it’s spaces before the catastrophic annihalation occured. The non space of the abstracted arhcitecture, the empty container seems like an appropriate means to commemorate the lives that were once lived within those spaces.