On Fabriques and Monstrous Future Ruins

‘Someone, he [Austerlitz] added, ought to draw up a catalogue of types of buildings listed in order of size, and it would be immediately obvious that domestic buildings of less than normal size—the little cottage in the fields, the hermitage, the lockkeeper’s lodge, the pavilion for viewing the landscape, the children’s bothy in the garden [the fabrique, in short]—are those that offer us at least a semblance of peace, whereas no one in his right mind could truthfully say that he liked a vast edifice such as the Palace of Justice on the old Gallows Hill in Brussels [or a Melbourne apartment tower like Fulton Lane]. At the most we gaze at it in wonder, a kind of wonder which in itself is a form of dawning horror, for somehow we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins.’ (From W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, pp. 18-19.)

This strikes me as very perceptive. I was looking at the Fulton Lane development in the city of Melbourne and did indeed experience just this reaction. It was wonder at the sheer size and bulk of the thing, overlaid with fear. The undercurrent of thought was indeed along the lines of ‘what if’: what if is fell, collapsed, decayed, or was struck by an aircraft. The fabrique, on the other hand, is indeed designed to have the kind of reaction Sebald describes: friendly intimacy, filled with reassurance, hope, and a sense of the richness of human culture. Of course, Sebald is here picking up on the idea of the ‘future ruin’, which came into circulation at the end of the eighteenth century and was taken up by Adolf Hitler, no less (according to Albert Speer’s memoirs.)

This entry was posted in All Posts, Architecture, Art, Book Commentaries, Comment, Fabriques, Town and Village and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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