Sunday, July 13, 2008

panic architecture / hobby eschatology / doom anxiety

-- by agraphia
In an empty field outside a small Dufferin County hamlet 90 miles northwest of Toronto, Canada, lie 42 school buses buried roughly 15ft underground. They were gutted and lowered into this grave in 1980, secured end to end into a 929-square-metre maze of narrow passageways and shallow, arched ceilings. Twenty years of decomposition after their initial burial they are dark, wet and corroding, more like the ruins of a decrepit, subterrainian dungeon than the pristine, futuristic spacecraft the architect may have envisioned. A few stainless steel water tankers, a large septic tank, and five large steel drums poised vertically like towers complete the structure, which is encased in a solid foot of reinforced concrete and covered in about 2.5 metres of soil. Only the five steel drums, weathered a rust-gold, and the front entrance, a padlocked door of heavy steel, remain visible above ground. An almost invisible, innocuous construction, subtle yet unsettling in its pastoral repose. On first witness it is difficult to imagine the purpose of these decaying towers, lying in an untilled field like abandoned agricultural silos, mysteriously left to rust, ugly and ominous, under an otherwise naive and unsuspecting slice of country sky.

The Survival Shelter : a physical testament to the profound need to make sense of our mortality faced with the uncertainty and inevitability of death. The will to secure order in chaos. The shelter lies somewhere between extremes of fear and hope, pessimism and optimism, destruction and construction. A symbol of apocalypse and rebirth : grave & haven, shipwreck & ark, dystopia & utopia. A physical structure constructed from a blueprint of fear and paranoia, trauma and catastrophe, yet miracle and gift, the promise of hereafter and a new world order. As a "nation awakened to danger", a society at 'risk' to the real possibility, the imminence and immanence of terrorism or other catastrophe, we are told to continue our daily routine. By definition, terrorism is 'the systematic use of violence as a means to intimidate or coerce societies or governments'. To live in fear is to allow the terrorist to win. Shop to survive! Despite the current global climate of violence and our cold war history, the 'survival shelter' remains an architecture of extremes. Whether the classified retreat of the social elite, the private asylum of the socially paranoid or haven of a prepared realist, it is panic architecture, shaped by sinister forces that most of us would rather forget, its very existence a lurking threat to routine normalcy, comfort and security.

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