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The Artificial Hills of Berlin (and Guangdong)
Noah Beil


We return back to Berlin, this time to point our readers to Noah Beil's photographic series, Mountain As Monument.

Noah Beil


Quoting his project statement:

The intense bombing of World War II left the streets of many European cities clogged with the remains of demolished masonry buildings. In Berlin alone, over 45 million cubic meters of debris had to be cleared as a part of post-war rebuilding efforts. After intact bricks were recovered for reuse, with much of the manual labor performed by women, waste materials were transported to distributed collection locations and piled into hills known in German as Schuttberg or Trümmerberg. Today, these debris hills are difficult to distinguish from naturally occurring features as they have been landscaped into parks with manicured grass and densely vegetated sections.


When Beil e-mailed us about his project, the image of a half-built skyscraper burning in Guangdong, China's manufacturing powerhouse province, was still fresh in our minds. The building looks to be unsalvageable and so likely to be torn down, a plausibly enough infill material to make an artificial hill. If it's not, one only needs to wait.

Noah Beil


Wait for the country's economic woes to sink deeper and deeper, even with all those stimulus packages, and soon there will be a huge population of disgruntled, unemployed workers. They can't all go back home to their farming villages, because only drought awaits them there. They will stay put, ever growing restless, seething in anger, each one a potential arsonist of half-built skyscrapers. Almost anything could turn them into a riotous mob. Maybe blocking one too many of their favorite YouTube videos is enough to trigger a transformation. When the tipping point is reached, though, Guangdong will be pockmarked with a constellation of infernal cities. The cities of Koolhaas' Pearl River Delta will burn like Dresden and Berlin of 1945.

When the army has regain control, wait no longer: there should be enough debris for several artificial hills, a mountain range uplifted not with the detritus of war but of a wrecked economy. Part urban regeneration, part city beautification, part state reconstruction of official history, they will then be landscaped as though they have always been there.

Or so we imagined.

Noah Beil


Could one also imagine Dubai uplifted with its own artificial hills?


POSTSCRIPT #1: A skyscraper burns in Shanghai.
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