Burying the Villa Savoye
Jacky Bowring, of Passages, recently won the much-deserved 1st Prize in the Auckland Architecture Association's 2007 Urban Gaze Competition for her Park of the Lost Object.
What does one find there in the park? “All that is apparent upon the surface,” writes Bowring, “is an enigmatic formation of small circular holes of unknown depth. Their configuration appears significant, as is the nature of the open cavity below. At night, light shines up from inside this curious cavern, emitting an unearthly glow from within the earth. The constellation of points is even more apparent at this time, an inflected grid, whose very presence appears to announce an absence.”
Bowring again: “The cavern below the pattern of oculi is revealed to be the negative form of a building. The whole negative structure has been cast from an iconic architectural object, Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, and this cast then inverted and placed into the ground. The holes are the negative space of the pilotis, meeting the ground, from beneath rather than from above. The lost object is suppressed as a subterranean subconscious, the landscape of sadness of the Park of the Lost Object.”
The project is fantastic, beautifully conceived and rendered, thought-provoking. It fails to convince us, however, that the landscape would necessarily be “plunged into grief, for the loss of the object” and would have “no wish to regain happiness” and that the site of absence is an “open wound”, a “melancholy place of loneliness,” as if its continued happiness is dependent upon artifacts. Furthermore, there are others who would consider Architecture justly subsumed by Landscape a cause for a celebratory bacchanalia at the Palms Casino, after which, all will awaken in the full blast of the afternoon sun many, many hours later—groggy, migrained but joyous—to a paradigm shift.
What we can be entirely convinced of is that a Villa Savoye entombed is a truly and supremely hysterical scenario.
But hilarity can immediately revert back to “melancholy weightiness” if one mentions the Crandall Canyon Mine, the site of the most recent major mine disaster in the U.S.
As most American viewers are well aware, six workers were trapped at the Utah mine after a coal mine bump. During the rescue operations, holes were drilled from the surface into chambers where the miners may have sought refuge. Atmospheric sensors, microphones and cameras were then lowered to check for signs of the men, but unfortunately, none were detected. Except for the relentless drip of hydrology and phantom sounds of speculated conversations, not much was heard.
All that was recorded and shown during live news conferences was the negative cast of a generic architecture--walls, ceilings, floors, space, anti-gravity supports--embedded in geology, disintegrating, metamorphosing into its own burial chamber and, as was increasingly feared then and very much likely now, into the subterranean tombs of the miners.
And to quote one official from the mine: “There was zero void.”
Also shown during the televised news conferences were maps of the mine, showing its passageways, compartments, entryways and exits. And marked on the pages are the locations of the seven boreholes.
If you were to tell us that the maps might just as well be the architectural plans of the Villa Savoye or the combined plans of every pharaonic tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, you would be correct. Because they are.
And if you were to tell us that the marked boreholes remind you of Bowring's oculi, the surface presence of untraceable “subterranean subconscious” folding back into the earth, that's because Bowring is a genius and she intended it.
The Crandall Canyon Mine as Park of the Lost Object v2.0.
One wonders if Bowring is an avid spelunker, scheming to embedded, say, St. Peter's or Guggenheim Bilbao, upside down and counter-axial, inside New Zealand's Southern Alps, where she'll rappel until she can't rappel no more.
The ¼ Garden