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Indispensable Eyesores: An Anthropology of Undesired Buildings

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Volume 10

Remapping Cultural History

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Indispensable Eyesores

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

Hb   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“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.

Subject: Urban Studies Anthropology (General) Cultural Studies (General)
Area: Europe Central/Eastern Europe


List of Illustrations

Chapter 1. Dragons, Tunnels, Gold and Russians: Narrative Introductions into the Bowels of ‘Corrupt’ Architecture
Chapter 2. Between Pragmatic Clearance and Pure Iconoclasm: Theoretical Perspectives on the Life and Death of Undesired Buildings
Chapter 3. 13 May 2001, 8.01 A.M. – 1 Building, 20,000 People and 450 Kilograms of Explosives: The Elimination of the Kaiserbau in Troisdorf as a Secular Sacrifice
Chapter 4. Witnessing Urbicide: Contested Destruction in Sarajevo
Chapter 5. From Nuclear Waste to a Temple of Consumerism: The Recuperation and Neutralization of the Ex-would-be Nuclear Power Plant in Kalkar
Chapter 6. Consuming the ‘Platte’ in East Berlin: The Revaluation of Former GDR Architecture
Chapter 7. If Not Clearing, Then At Least Thinking Them Away: The Significance of Unrealized Proposals and the Viennese Flaktürme
Chapter 8. ‘L’ like ‘Left to Its Own Devices’: The Progressive Dilapidation of the Kulturhaus in Zinnowitz
Chapter 9. Exorcizing Remains: Architectural Fragments as Intermediaries between History and Individual Experience
Chapter 10. In Fond Memory of a Rejected Edifice: Reaffirming Agency by Rehabilitating Vanished Eyesores
Chapter 11. Eyesores Are Indispensable: Concluding Remarks

Epilogue: Taboos on the Multi-Sensory Materiality of Buildings and Their Agency


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