The Culture of Congestion is (temporarily) dead

Contribution to the AA Earth Gallery

The iconic drawing by Madelon Vriesendorp published in Delirious New York (on the left), to us represents the world of our recent past - freedom. Our world was one giant social situation. We were the naked individuals, slurping our oysters whilst wearing sweaty boxing gloves.
Did eating out of the glove pronounce the taste? Did the struggle make it more rewarding? It did not matter, we were living it.

A scene unfolds in front of our eyes about the collective human vitality that thrives in architecture. Light dramatically sets the scene, where the light actually comes from we don’t know. Like a stage, it’s somewhat artificial. Later these self obsessed, unsanitized, Schlemmer-like actors might descend into the rest of the metropolis, undoubtedly full of raw and real experiences.

The new image (on the right) represents the world of today. All of a sudden life is totally unspectacular, a still life without life. The absence of humans renders the scene vacuous. The spirit of congestion is temporarily dead giving way to a certain spatial serenity.

Where are the actors? Are they elsewhere living a much more controlled existence? Are they still obsessed with the old world? Are they satisfying their old habits by playing the online XBOX from home, getting oysters delivered, all from the comfort of their own respective living rooms?

Having surrendered our individual liberties in favour of the collective, we are suddenly confined yet paradoxically liberated. In our rationed existence, rituals and routines have emerged that let us see the world in a new light. Today we might find delight in the simplest of things.

The question is, when the dust settles, will we return to the first iconic image, the old world as we knew it? Or will we simply turn off the lights?

May 2020.

Contribution to the AA Earth Gallery
Exhibition & Panel discussion “Imaging the Earth today” at the Architectural Association, London

Location: Architectural Association Earth Gallery