Silo Dreams: Speculation for an American Post-Industrial Ruin
Ruins are settings for allegory, markers of change, and symbols unto themselves. They are mirror-objects whose conditions resonate with our own fleeting existence, often calling to mind the forces of decay, entropy, and absence. But ruins are unequivocally present. Solitary and relieved from banal function, they are now free to engage the world in ways that working buildings can not. Ruins speak.
In America, new types of ruin dominate spaces of the rural landscape and the urban fringe. Utilitarian twentieth-century structures, authored by anonymous masters of order and efficiency, now lay abandoned yet alive. Such a ruin, once a grain elevator, rises with solitary monumentality above its surroundings in Brooklyn. This structure, the last of its kind in the city, was originally built in 1922, but was abandoned completely by 1965 after a decline in grain traffic. In the years since, it has become a symbol of Red Hook, as well as an object of desire for urban adventurers and ruin-gazers alike. The Red Hook Grain Elevator and other ruins like it are massive and challenging, and require inventive forms of engagement in order to persist. Instead, they are often overtaken, reused, or ‘preserved’ and their voices are silenced. Architecture that restores or functionalizes ruins rejects dialogue; this mute architecture must be resisted. In the proposed project, the spirit of the solitary object is a catalyst for invention—for Architecture that speculates on the ruin as a realm of present possibility and dialogical value.