MONUMENTALIST BUILDINGS;REFLEXIONS

“OUTSIZE BUILDINGS CAST THE SHADOW OF THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION BEFORE THEM”(“AUSTERLITZ”, W G SEBALD)

Sebald develops this theme-of the decay INHERENTLY built into monumenatlist size and type buidings-in the first pages of his great work, “Austerlitz”.

My OWN experiences of such buidings, loathe as I am, sometimes, to re-envsion them,( albeit temporarily and in memory only), in the present, carrying, as they do, the detritus of a (long) gone past, include:

LEWIS’S- as this blog started; now nearly one year on after final closure. Broken window….empty displays(formerly the sine qua non of shop window displys)…..boarded up doors…inner decimation.

Built in the heyday of 19th century capitalist expansion, monumentally,then RE-built, equally gargantuan, after partial destruction in the Second World War, rising from the ashes then , but, later, failing to compete in the ever-moving-forward, ever-crushing-of-the-weak “march” of capitalist “progress”, in the 1980s, and finally capitulating as Liverpool One took over the centre of retail .

{See start of blog for photographs of its gradual demise}

………………………………………………………………….

BROAD STREET STATION

Yes, I remember

Broad Street;

Give it my regards

For,

On a day when

A terrible malaise

Set in, during

A time I even visited

“The Samaritans”

In East London,

Wandering rootless,

In a new,

Alien , scary city,

In 1984:-

I stopped

Unwontedly there:

Blackened

Giganticist

Monument.

Two serviced platforms

Deserted ticket office

Inner darkness;

No passengers

But pigeons.

Later,

Demolished, and

Reduced to one

External platform.

Once a symbol

Of the railways’

Dominion

Now a shell.

{With acknowledgements to Edward Thomas “Addlestrop”-again!- and to Paul McCartney “Give my Regards to Broad Street”}

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

TEMPELHOF AIRPORT

Built by the Nazi in-house architect, Ernst Sagebiel, as part of Hitler and Spiers’ grand plan for a nationalist, monumentalist architecture for their “vision” of “Germania”, Tempelhof has had a very disparate history,between the two extreme poles of a symbol of Hitler’s evil, and the (slightly later) location of a force for good.

In 1948, in the Berlin airlift the Allied Forces “raisin bombers” dropped essential supplies into Tempelhof airport when the Soviets severed the road link to West Berlin, stranded as it was , about 100 miles into the Soviet Sector.

So a symbol of unspeakably hideous oppression; and of a humanitarian mission.

After a heyday in the 1960s and early 1970s,when it was used for long distance jet flights,it then became a US airbase until 1990, when it was “re-opened” to commercial traffic, seeing a gradual decline and dwindling in useage until it closed in October 2008;at the end, the flights numbered the measly twelve or thirteen per day, short-haul, propeller-plane business flights.

Many pictures of this gigantic building, the third largest, in acreage, in the world, after The Pentagon and Ceaucescu’s Palace, exist on the internet. I failed, sadly, to take any myself, not realising the significance of this building whilst in Berlin. But, from these photographs, its most enduring architectural features, to me, are(because the buidling itself is fully extant, being a World Heritage Site):the cavernous vast departure lounge, usually almost totally empty; the mysterious underground tunnels, filled with extremely unpleasant secrets(the subject of part of a recent novel By DBC Pierre, “Lights out in Wonderland”); and the videos, on Youtube, of its last flights in October 2008.

But Tempelhof HAD to sink into (commercial air) desuetude; it was  a symbol of a corrupt, evil regime, much as King Leopold’s giganticist Antwerp Central railway station(as described in Sebald’s “Austerlitz”) was a symbol of the corrupt, genocide-causing Belgian Empire. Nonetheless, there is the ineffable, complex feeling engendered by its re-incarnation(one can’t say redemption, because that evil was unreedemable) as the sight for humanitarian aid  via the Berlin Airlift.

Flughafen Tempelhof

Tempelhof Airport

Symbol of

Nazi evil

AND

Human succour.

Opposites:

Evil and good.

In my dreams,

I visit your

Lost airstrip,

Echoing, empty tunnels;

The little cafe

With the red espresso cups

The empty flight-desks

The luggage travelator

With no luggage;

Twelve flights

Per day.

A dying

Memory-ridden

Deeply compromised

Behemoth:

Monster and Saviour:

Tempelhof

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

A DREAM OF AN ABANDONED RAILWAY STATION

In the dream

I was there

At a station

That was neither

Liverpool Street

Nor Broad Street.

But partook

Of both:

In its dereliction,

Abandoned platforms,

Desecrated canopies;

Like a scene from

“Threads”,

A film about,

Nuclear annihilation,

Made in

An abandoned

Railway station

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

THE FORMER GREAT EATERN HOTEL, LIVERPOOL STREET, which forms the frontage of the (now) refurbished Liverpool Street station, and itself now converted into a vast boutique hotel, was the scene of a stay, by myself, around the same time as the visit to Broad Street station, when, despairing and rootless, and needing a rest from an enervating job in Swansea,I decided to stay in London for a few days. I noticed that part of the hotel, which Sebald also describes , in “Austerlitz”, was partitioned off with screens, (beyond which I watched a cleaner scurry), which were off-limits to the public; and behind which, presumably, because we are never sure of sebaldian narrators’ facts or indeed their amorphous selfhood, the Masonic Temple lay hidden. It was/is another building which seemed to have decay built into it from the very outset: its otioseness a railway company’s dream of Victorian engineering’s scope for limitless expansion, by way of the railways; with their concomitant industries of grand, elephantine and labarynthine hotels(the St. Pancras Midland Hotel being the most grandiloquent; another example being the North-Western Hotel at Liverpool Lime Street station). it could not survive the re-grouping of the railway companies into “The Big Four”, and, later, railway nationalisation. But, in 1983, when I stayed there, it( just) clung on, like semi-defunct Lewis’s,literally split into two, half still in use, albeit in a desultory, frozen-in-time fashion,  semi-derelict, again much like the top floors of Lewis’s; yet another time capsule

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

ST PANCRAS(INTERNATIONAL!)STATION

NOW

A glittering

Underground Mall;

Five pounds for a crepe;

A pound for one chocolate

In the
“Hotel du Chocolat”;

A bar as long as

The railway platform.

Eurostar trians

Behind glass.

“Midland Mainline”

Shunted

To the back

…………….

THEN

Before refurbishment,

Pigeons,

Down-and-outs;

Small trains in

Large empty platforms.

Almost demolished-

The former

Midland Hotel,

Which had become a

Carapace:

Deprived of the status

Of even British Rail offices

Having lost its

Fire Certificate

…………………………

“Outsize buildings

Cast the shadow

Of their own

Destruction

Before them”

{a homage to Sebald, especially to “Austerlitz”}

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Published by: decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)

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One thought on “MONUMENTALIST BUILDINGS;REFLEXIONS”

  1. Thank you for all this. You’ve been busy! Have even thrown in a carapace!

    I share your interest in old buildings and wish I could visit the places you describe.

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