Monday, February 12, 2007

Contextual Archeology

I've been thinking about something that I have come to call "Contextual Archeology", shifts in the meaning of forms that happen through the result of changes in use and recontextualization over time. For example, in New York city many buildings that were originally designed to house financial institutions are no longer homes to banks. (Bank's now borrow the form language of retail stores in an attempt at being more accessible and consumer friendly. High end retailers have taken over these spaces as a way to harness prestige and create a feeling of exclusivity.) Here's an example. This regal looking building is now home to Balduccci's, a gourmet food store.

These shifts in use and context sometimes destabilize the meaning of the original forms in such a way that the end result is incongruency. In the case of Balducci's, refitting itself within a shell that communicates "moneyed prestige" works out rather nicely for them.

Another classic New York example is the former church that later housed the Limelight nightclub for many years. An ironic statement or a more honest positioning of the place that sex, drugs and rock 'n roll occupy in manhattan?

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