Archeology of the near future
In a culture that constantly denied itself in terms of its future, dealing with the past is problematic. Equally, for a nation moved by utilitarian pragmatism the unused quickly becomes unwanted.
The late West Side Highway is a victim of the New World’s particular resistance to its own messy history; we prefer our past in neater packages. Colonial Williamsburg, South Street Seaport and Main Street Disneyland all represent a reworking of the past that eliminates discomfort, and most of all the melancholy that has always been associated with ruined structures. It is hard to imagine the Roman aqueducts being pulled down because of their dysfunctional state or need for actors in togas to make the Pantheon seem “real”.
If the rusting hulk was derelict, even dangerous, isn’t there something equally extreme in the way in which the entire structure was obliterated? Kenneth Feinstein’s photographs may astonish future historians: did this structure, several miles long, weighing hundreds of tons, really exist? Where did they put it?
Former Head Curator
Department of Architecture & Design
The Museum of Modern Art, New York