As we walked the neighborhood, the marginalization of these sites became apparent. They were forgotten spaces, maintained by realtors, absent landowners, and politicians. One of these sites, a stable for the city’s carriage fleet, seemed to draw attention to these odd aberrations in the city’s fabric and express their unspoken potential for imaginative mischief. An old horse, tied to the trailer of a neglected truck, stared at us through the fence. There was a rooster too. They knew where they were, probably better than us.
We propose the transformation of these sites into embodiments of urban mythologies, bringing the unused sites into dialogue with the neighborhood and recognizing what may not be, but could. The neighborhood as the zoo, populated by unimaginable creatures in the captivity of vacant lots.
The Zoo: A collection of exotic creatures, a polemical exhibition of empire.
Private extravagance, communicated through living geopolitical manifestoes, became a public spectacle. The collection of the royal menagerie, a source of political and economic capital, was exhibited under the pretense of scientific edification. It was disguised as a didactic paradise, to spread knowledge that had previously been limited to the imperial researchers. But to the uninitiated, it was a wonder. No longer science but magic; instant travel through space and time, visions of monsters from a prehistoric age, creatures from the uninhabitable oriental tropics, where the atmosphere was hotter than the surface of the sun. A living phantasmagoria, grotesque beasts in the palm of your Victorian hand. It was a complete illusion, three-dimensional and animate, curated by uncompromising titans of science.
As the business of Zoo was born, biodiversity became a commodity. The scientist, lured by the promise of unknowable wealth and fame, turned into a statesman, a ringmaster, and a puppeteer. The Great Hunter, in a safari jacket and pith hat, made his way through the heart of darkness, and returned with proof of his conquests, trophies and captives, to display for public’s edification. Unnamed creatures were named, and dominion over the horizon secured.
Atlanta: A collection of banal constructions, hammered into a declaration of global influence.
A city of supreme ambition and endless means, Atlanta asserts its place among its heroes. It overturns the introversion of its rich and powerful, expressing it in labyrinthine skyways, microcosmic atriums, and a wide assortment of architectural hats, all channeled through the contemptuous pen of John Portman.
But Portman was never a scientist. He wasn’t even a hunter. His zoo wasn’t populated with taxidermy, but with stuffed animals. The spark of animation was missing; he was no Dr. Frankenstein. His message of Atlanta’s global significance rang hollow, the cityscape became meaningless, reduced to layers of misdirected abandoned attempts at coherency.
Zoo Atlanta: Aberrations, the unravelling.
And yet, the city is alive. And far too large to bury. Hidden between mortar tuxedoes and drywall corsets, the organic, irrational forces of creation conspire to enliven disused space into a new self, intrinsically exhibitionist. The junkyards, the forgotten spaces, populated by horses and roosters, along with the refuse of public imagination, unfold into an oracular realm of irreplaceable and unique creatures. This is a third world country, a brand new exoticism. ‘Her sullen and aborted currents breed tiny monsters.’ These hybrid architectures, through the spectacle of the zoo, invite the viewer to wander. From the drive-through safari of the highway to the reptile den of the alleyway the unleashed natures of the city call spectators to gaze at their beasts. And the animals are not asleep, they are hungry.
[ architecture, art, atlanta, castleberry hill, flux, Installation, proposal, video installation ]