Ruins of the future

Riffing on some lines from the inimitable Owen Hatherley:

Erase the traces.

Narkomfin building, designed by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignatii Milinis (1929)

Destroy, in order to create.

Hallway inside Narkomfin building, photo by Liza Dedova (February 2011)

Build a new world on the ruins of the old.

Hallway of Narkomfin, photo by Max Semakov (April 2009)

This, it is often thought, is the Modernist imperative, but what of it if the new society never emerged?

Narkomzem building, designed by Aleksei Shchusev, Dmitrii Bulgakov, Iosif Frantsuz, Grigorii Yakovlev; photo by Max Semakov (April 2009)

We have been cheated out of the future, yet the future’s ruins lie about us, hidden or ostentatiously rotting.

NCSR, Commissariat of Communications, designed by Ivan Fomin (1928-1931); photo by Max Semakov (April 2009)

So what would it mean, then, to look for the future’s remnants?

Tsentrosoiuz building, designed by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Nikolai Kolli (1928-1933), photo by Max Semakov (April 2009)

To uncover clues about those who wanted, as Walter Benjamin put it, to “live without traces”?

Souvenir of the Crystal Palace (built 1851, destroyed by fire 1936)

Can we, should we, try and excavate utopia?

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