Schrinking Cities competition entry 2004 with Ines Weizman
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Just before you place yet another of those candy-coloured boards on our ‘monotonous’ facades, top it with faked slanting red tiled roofs, build yet another arcade to historicise an ‘a-historic’ fabric, or terrace out our ‘too large’ and ‘boring’ housing blocks to detoxicate socialist ideology from the housing estate – Hold on!
Just before you let your architectural creativity run loose, scatter little pavilions in our ‘neglected’ yards, colour light our ‘deserted eerie’ streets, ‘curate’ events inside and outside the buildings, roll out your green carpets and scalp out your curvy surfaces onto which skateboarders and rollerbladers are to be collaged in order to ‘enliven’ our ‘dead environment’ – Hold on!
Just before you carve out, dig in, cut down, take apart, pull yet another ‘Gordon Matta-Clark’, come yet again with your bulldozers, cranes, trucks and caterpillars or turn our city into a military mock-up for urban combat that will finally flatten the area into a virgin land and ask us to re-inhabit the sublime emptiness of our once so familiar environment – Hold on!
Stop your searching troupes for the trees of ‘desirable environment’ in the forest of neo-liberal mediocrity. Let us free the restless ghosts who would keep haunting us in any attempt to mask over the graveyard of a social vision.
In all the jubilation over its collapse, and with all the euphoric energy of and schadenfreude about its dismantling, we must remember that the ‘project’ to establish socialism and its material fabric was never completed. The fact that socialism failed us in practice does not mean that all that has been created and built in its name should be dismissed as worthless.
Confirming the ‘failure’ of socialist housing means judging an urbanism that never had the chance to be proven in practice. The East German state, like all socialist allies was always chasing behind their projected visions for the future. Its urban projects were never completely realised; and – as if still alive – the future of the past is not fully buried: the chance to complete a visionary project.