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Remapping Cultural History
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An Anthropology of Undesired Buildings
Mélanie van der Hoorn
272 pages, 22 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-84545-530-9 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2009)
eISBN 978-1-84545-921-5 eBook
“Indispensable Eyesores suggests many new ways to think about human relationships with the built environment and more critically understand not only what buildings mean but also how they mean. It also promises to challenge and inspire productive debate and encourage much fruitful research.” · Current Anthropology
Collapsing concrete colossuses, run-down overgrown skeletons, immutable architectural misfits: the outcasts from our built environment, which we are dying to dispose of — and yet cannot do without — have inspired many ghost stories, crime novels and urban legends. Such narratives reveal the significance of architectural eyesores for the people who live or work in or near them. After exploring various approaches to building lives and deaths, the author presents a rich variety of undesired edifices in Germany, Hungary, Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina and investigates the different methods used to dispose of them: eliminating, damaging, transforming or ‘reframing’ them, abandoning them to progressive dilapidation or virtually rejecting them. Discarding an edifice, however, need not bring its social life to an end. This analysis continues with a reflection on the afterlife of unwanted buildings, and concludes with a discussion on the life expectancy of buildings, their multi-sensory materiality and ‘thingly’ agency.
Mélanie van der Hoorn studied Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and obtained her doctorate at Utrecht University. She was awarded the Boekman Prize 1999 for her MA thesis The Negative (of the) City: Unbuilt Projects and Undesirable Architecture in Vienna. Currently, she conducts research on architecture and comics.