And there had never been a monster the size of America. Every
time it turned over in its sleep it entrained disasters that would
roll through villages. There were blunderings and perversities
and calculated cruelties; and there was no self-knowledge – none.
This quote came to mind on looking over Joseph Choma’s entry. I
was at the same time reminded of the work by Robert Smithson on a
remote edge of Salt Lake, Utah: Spiral Jetty, and could easily imagine
an enlargement of this proposal at a remote site in Iraq.
The suggestion of both the spine of a primitive reptile and very
large tectonic shifts very neatly enclose the enormous forces that
have converged over the people of Iraq.
a response in the form of an intervention in the landscape: Beautifully
drawn by hand and at the same time requiring the latest technologies
and advanced ideas about the repair of the frayed edges of the
social fabric, the proposal is both elegiac and entirely feasible
as a small intervention that could be scaled up to even regional
proportions without becoming an oppressive imposition.
proposal represents the intellectual rigor of the architectural profession
at it best and the important role that architects play in defining
civil society. Easily the most thoroughly conceived and elaborated
proposal (read the associated documentation), this work of Matthijs
Boer defines the labor of nation building as a careful exercise of
observation, professional analysis, and well-established institutional
responses to healing the trauma that all societies experience in
the long and uncertain unfolding of history.
deceptively simple yet powerfully evocative gesture that brings to
mind a complex of associations. Even the tentative nature of the
title suggests the unnerving implications. Anyone familiar with old
cemeteries will know that the grounds become saturated with human
remains and any scratching of the earth reveals an unsettling mixture
of dark soil and bone fragments that look like sharp stones. Iraq
is among the most ancient of settled lands and as such a land of
a multitude of successive generations in which the dead far outnumber
the living. The image of an excavation paired with a mound of debris
brings to mind the form of the bomb crater and the rubble pile, the
burial trench and the victims before their execution.
equally dark evocation in simple ink drawings. The highly elaborated
techniques developed to skirt established legal definitions of torture
are here rendered as a universally understood form of disorienting
blindness, suffocation, helplessness, isolation and fear. These must
be exactly the responses of civilians to the extreme violence and
unpredictability of warfare in their midst.
What might otherwise be overlooked as a naïve for the
simple inelegant drawing, could in fact be a quite dramatic and effective
reminder of any occupant of the White House looking out the south
windows. Despite its overexposure as background kitsch to every visitor
to Washington, this monument is elegantly mute as it is huge. My
personal bias against mediating text on monuments is here overcome
by the ephemeral nature of the fleeting images of innumerable names
spiraling down the grainy surface of the worn marble blocks, much
in the same way as the living briefly inhabit the earth.
the somewhat fractured English of the descriptive text reveals a
carefully conceived and elegantly restrained proposal. The small
scale belies the largess of its scope. The subtlety of the proposal
is first revealed in a sequence of photos of a drop of ink in water
that instantly recalls the form of the most lethal weapon of mass
destruction. The sound of the drops evokes both the quiet passing
of time, counting up, and counting down.
beautifully drawn and beguiling set of drawings evoking a deep
cultural memory of a time when human civilization was just
beginning to confidently record its mastery over the animal
kingdom. The elegance of the drawings belie the nature of our
civilization now when the domain of lions has been reduced
to the perimeter of their cages.
painterly imagination of flame, fire and the millisecond after the
bomb has exploded has no other equal. A fine example of the mural
tradition in painting, the dense canvas of dark shards in a twisted
field of intense reds and yellows that shred the composition evokes
the visceral horror of this particular type of violence.
conceit of a sandstorm as the driving metaphor for this proposal
is beguiling as it is somewhat beyond the skill of the author. Here
begins the ragged edge of proposals that did not quite meet the requirements
for coherence, relevance, precision, and aptness. The text for this
proposal somehow did not quite translate and the tilted planes did
not quite evoke the amorphous form nor enormous scale of a sandstorm.
However, some of the imagery (“elongated screams of pain” ?) could
have very effectively suggested the streaking trails of cluster bombs
or phosphor canisters so recently in the news.