Reading through Hackney That Rose-Red Empire it is clear that Iain Sinclair doesn’t feel as if the Olympics was ever able to add to the urban fabric he so brilliantly evokes. It is clear from what is currently happening that it won’t be a good piece of city-building but could it have been? Or is the Olympics ultimately redundant as a piece of infrastructure building. Even Barcelona the city we constantly evoke as a positive Olympics experience is a dubious example. Montjuic, the heart of 1992 has a desolate feel, dominated by Montjuïc Castle where they shot Republicans in the 1940s. Only now its got a bloody great spindle in the middle and a football stadium named after one of those shot Republicans which no-one wants to inhabit. (Espanyol are moving out of town to a new purpose built stadium.)
It is amazing to see a construction site going at full tilt in these troubled times but the psychogeographers perhaps are right one feels without really being able to qualify that Will Self’s words at the end of his article in the Observer Monthly nearly two years ago.
London is too big, too old and too anarchic to have its future determined by the Blair regime’s Six-Year Plan. They may make compulsory purchases, tarmac over the sports pitches, roust out the travellers’ encampments and tidy the urban detritus under their magic finance carpet, but very quickly it will all come tumbling back, the steely weeds of a city that has defied everything that god, men or even planners can throw at it.
There are some beautiful images in Laura Oldfield Ford’s exhibition at the Hales Gallery. But some even more pertinent ones in issue number 10 of the excellent Savage Messiah zine which really capture the idea of the place as it will be when the crowd’s empty and its entirely governed by security guards in a constant struggle to keep out the artists, the ravers and the homeless. I find that argument considerably more compelling than EDAW’s recently released vision of the area in 2040. (Watch out for frankly terrifying road safety ad at the beginning of the clip.)
In his book Non-Places which has just been republished in a second English language edition, Marc Augé describes the current dominant aesthetic of architecture as “an aesthetic of distance that tends to make us overlook all the effects of rupture”. I hadn’t really understood what he meant until I watched EDAW’s video.