Architecture In Anticipation
June 20, 2011
Imagine a flood that engulfs your town in 2021. Maybe you’ll have kids by then, or live in LA, or you’ll have changed professions. Who knows!
The point is, long-term planning doesn’t come easy to us humans, and least of all to architects, who work tied directly to the daily fluctuations of the economy.
Dutch art collective Observatorium, who are the subject of BLDGBLOG’s latest post, broached the counterintuitive with “Waiting for the River,” in which they expanded the chronological scale of architecture itself. In anticipation of the planned flooding of the Emscher River, a decade away, the group built a 125-foot-long structure that’s at once a bridge and a small village. In dedicating themselves to a distant future, the group has created a series of spaces that amplify the immediate, perpetual act of waiting.
“Waiting for the River” anticipates the renaturalization of a Ruhr Valley river (that’s currently a sewer canal) over the next ten years. The spaces, which include a hostel, bathroom, and outdoor eating areas, were available for 24-hour stays last summer. The group’s intent was to engage visitors in waiting for the event of flooding. As Geoff Manaugh writes, “It is the preparation of the landscape that becomes the spectacle.”
It’s not dissimilar to the House Awaiting Death, an EASTERN Design Office project built for a client who anticipated his own death over the coming decade. Both projects, in anticipation of an event decades away, convene an architectural spectacle of the present.