Path of Voids in the Urban Grain
Next, I started thinking about how to infuse these concepts into the physicality and urban grain of Canterbury. There must be a site or series of sites that are already abandoned since this is also the main requirement on the brief, along with their purpose being hospitality related.
The central theme for this is, as previously elaborated on, the missing in the conversation. Therefore, to put this into the spatial world, I would need a void space - an abandoned site. Or, better yet, a series of abandoned sites.
Gordon Matta-Clark himself had a project before where he selected empty sites around New York which arguably resulted of poor city planning. Design magazine Socks Studio writes:
Starting in the summer of 1973, artist Gordon Matta-Clark purchased fifteen lots in the city of New York, fourteen in Queens and one in Staten Island. The specificity of these plots is to be tiny residual areas, often inaccessible parcels of land escaped for some reasons to the rules of the grid and the interests of the real estates. These “unuseless” spaces, sometimes even narrower than a person’s shoulders, were publicly auctioned by the city of New York for a price ranging between $25 and $75 each. Matta Clark’s collection of untenable properties included a triangular plot, a tiny strip of land between two houses, a curbsite. It was a catalogue of bits of land probably resulting from surveying errors or zoning oddities.
While documenting the irrationalities of a city, he basically questioned the meaning and value of land property, using these anomalies in the map to reveal its contradictions.
“They were a group of fifteen micro-parcels of land in Queens, left-over properties from an architect’s drawing. One or two of the prize ones were a foot strip down somebody’s driveway and a foot of sidewalk. And the others were curbstone and gutter space. What I basically wanted to do was to designate spaces that wouldn’t be seen and certainly not occupied.”
As Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois point out in their essay “Formless” (Zone Books – 1997, from page 226): (the spaces) “wouldn’t be seen”, not so much because they were inaccessible (although this was true in some case), but because they had no use value whatsoever and only a purely nominal exchange value: these are fake commodities, fake real estate properties” (the title of the work, perhaps the most conceptual piece Matta Clark ever did, is Reality Propenies: Fake Estates (1973), which puns on the fact that reality is an archaic term for real estate). The parcels did not interest Matta-Clark unless they had no economic value whatever”.
To start the same venture, I could also study Canterbury's master plans and search for irregularities and unused pockets of space. Or, I could walk through Canterbury and tangibly find and understand such occurrences in the urban grain and select a key few to take part in this manifesto.
Images courtesy of Socks Studio.
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