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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ruins in The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable

Robert Harbison's book, whimsically titled The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable, contains a chapter titled "Ruins" which is equally whimsically. The chapter itself lacks a thesis or direction, but is rather a connect-the-dots brainstorm of ideas about ruins without much editing. Still, there are a couple of interesting thoughts that Harbison hits upon. He suggests that ruins can be classified, writing:
"We need a careful series of the degrees of ruin like a paint chart or a colour wheel as one adds further minute amounts of white (that is, of passage) to the basic tone."
While it's rather unclear what he means in the context of his paragraph, the idea itself is intriguing. Asi Shalom did something along this line when he graphed ruins as a function of time versus the percentage of the building that remained. Harbinson seems to want to chart ruins based on how long it takes them to deteriorate, from instantaneous ruins to ones that decay glacially. Other charts are possible as well, and remain to be suggested.

Harbison also explains that ruins have a lot to do with the psychic state of the viewer. We are apt to recall our own personal attachment to a site and disregard previous or later strata. Thus,
"When a childhood scene is cleared to make way for something else or perhaps for nothing else, one's first thought is not of those who lived there last, one's successors, but of one's old sensations which are now a book abruptly closed."
When dealing with a layered site like Rosh Ha'ayin, there is a Jewish memory attached with the site that dates back millenia, but is so detached and minor that it is hard to cleave to it. There are other Israeli cultural associations with the site, and there are certainly memories attached to Arab and Crusader periods. However, I personally have no overwhelming association with the site. Perhaps this will give me clairvoyance when choosing what to do with its ruins; or, perhaps it means I am not in the least bit qualified to address its ruins. Still, it is important to recognize the importance of memory - and memories can sometimes be misleading or invented - when dealing with ruins.

Finally, Harbison dedicates a large percentage of his chapter modern, industrial ruins. He explains that they are unique, in that they may still be alive, but are also in danger as they are seen as machines with little aesthetic appeal.
"Ancient ruins vividly depict the passage of time, but it is now almost frozen. By noticing them we remove them from the buffeting stream. Industrial ruins are most special in this: though large and powerful they feel extremely vulnerable. No one is going to keep them just for a spectacle, so the richer they become as ruins, the nearer and surer their demolition approaches. Only ruins only look doomed anymore, these plants and factories are."
I would venture that the modern ruins in Rosh Ha'ayin are similar - few people would consider leveling Tel Aphek or Migdal Zedek, yet the utilitarian, workaday ruins of the British buildings in Rosh Ha'ayin, especially those that have deteriorated, are in danger of being erased. In this case, the question is not whether to preserve them as functioning building, but rather should we preserve them at all. We believe they should be preserved, and that preservation as ruins serves as good, if not a superior, function.

Robert Harbison, The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable: In Pursuit of Architectural Meaning. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1991), 99-130.

1 comment:

  1. בקשר לסוף הפיסקה האחרונה: לדעתי צריך לבחון כל מקרה לגופו. אתם מתחילים לשדר (וזה נאמר כעת ממש במפורש) שעדיף מצב החורבה. זו מלכודת שלדעתי צריך להיזהר ממנה. לא נכון לחפש למה ואיך כדאי ועדיף שיהיו חורבות. מבנים נועדו לשימוש. לשם כך נוצרו. במהלך חייהם מתחלפים הדיירים, מתחלפים השימושים, יש שינויים במבנה, תוספות והריסות. מבחינה אתית באופן בסיסי ראוי שימשיך להיות מבנה. אולי קשה לי להתרגל לאורח מחשבה שונה (שאתם מרגילים את עצמכם אליו בהדרגה). עדיין נראה לי באופן כללי נכון שלבניין (גם הרוס חלקית) מתייחסים תחילה כאל בניין. אולי זה הרגל החשיבה כארכיטקט- לחפש קודם כל מה אפשר לעשות עם מקום ואיך להשתמש בו....
    ההסתייגות שלי לא סותרת את האפשרות והצורך לעתים לטפל בחורבות, ולעשות זאת נכון וטוב. אבל מתי והיכן? האם תנסו גם לזה להגדיר קריטריונים?
    אם כבר גולשים לדיונים עקרוניים: האם כל חורבה מצדיקה התייחסות? האם יש קדושה כלשהי בעצם היות מקום בנוי אי-פעם? האם ומתי ראוי דווקא לפרק, למחזר את החומרים, לתת לטבע לנצח או סתם לנקות ולטהר מקום? שאלה פתוחה....