Ruin-Nation Mike House | Victor Orriola
Since 1968 architects have continually questioned notions of capital and commodity driven space making. The notion that architecture is merely a channel for the various flows of capital and market forces has been coming under scrutiny as of late. With the rise of emerging markets and new global flows of capital during the 1990s, first world cities were experiencing tremendous growth and increases in the production of space. However this growth was greatly challenged during the recent financial crisis. Mass foreclosure, outsourcing of entire job sectors and class stratification has resulted in conditions of dysfunctional urbanism.
Former manufacturing centers such as Detroit and other rust belt cities have been experiencing massive depopulation and decay. The exodus of the car industry in Detroit has resulted in the loss of 800,000 residents since 1960 (1). Large industrial facilities and corporate headquaters now sit vacant throughout the city resulting in the spread of crime and general conditions of decay.
New York has been experiencing quite an economic shock of it’s own lately. While New York was once home to a burgeoning industrial sector, the loss of those jobs has not been unmanageable due to the strength of the financial and real estate sectors. However this past year has seen these industries reeling from the world wide financial crisis. An estimated 82,000 financial sector jobs were lost last year. (3) Major slowdowns were experienced in the real estate and construction industries as well with 2009 being the first year that the DOB kept records on stalled construction sites.
There are currently a number of city neighborhoods that are experiencing this condition of dysfunctional urbansim. Former industrial and manufacturing zones in Mott Haven, Williamsburg, Hunts Point and East Harlem are continuing to experience moderate levels of abandonment and urban decay. A recent Manhattan wide survey of vacant buildings showed the majority of empty structures in the area immediately north of Central Park.(4) We speculate that the recent instability of other major local job markets could further this condition of decay in the next few decades.
We posit that this condition of abandonment exists within the margins of two economic systems, Capitalist and Post-Capitalist. Practices which utilize these sites operate in a manner that is dependent on the failures of capitalism. They exist in a frontier territory in which expansion, occupation and survival are the primary modes of operation. While this “Marginal Frontier” operates with similar goals in mind; those of “occupation” and “resource gathering”, it is fundamentally different than capitalist frontierism. Occupation and resource gathering withing Marginal Frontiers does not seek to further the flow of capital for the dominating forces, but rather to ensure a basic quality of life through the reappropriation of cast off materials. Notions of private property, monetary enrichment and excess are trumped by the common good of the collective.
Marginal Fronteirs in New York City exist whithin at least two social practices currently. Metal scrappers and squatters concern themselves with occupation and resource gathering. To this end they employ a series of space and social based protocols which create fronteir territories through the virtual linkage of abandoned sites. Our aim is analyze and map these illicit protocols in the hope that a network logic will become apparent. Such a logic is unconcerned with traditional notions of capital and could serve as a model for a post capitalist infrastructure.
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