ADS4: Plots, Props & Paranoia – How Architecture Stages Conspiracy
We live in an era that has become obsessed with the past. Not a past of truths or realities, but one which has been orchestrated to maintain the influence, authority, and power of the ruling class. The lure of nostalgia sees architecture complicit, embodied ideologies which serve to propagate the specific, selected ideals from years gone by into the conscious of tomorrow. Conversely, architectures which challenge the current seat of authority exist as points of contention, systematically removed from the world because of their embodiment of an ideology in opposition to that of our own - a vision for a future different to the one history has supplied us with and different to that which illegitimate authorities would have us believe.
Within the UK, few cities embody the failure of this future like the post-war Utopian experiment of Coventry. A city redesigned following the WWII raids that saw its destruction so complete that it warranted a new verb: "Coventrate”, to reduce to rubble. Unlike other cities which experienced similar levels of destruction, such as Dresden, Warsaw, Hamburg, and chose to rebuild as exact facsimiles of their former self, Coventry’s rebuilding accepted the reality of its past by building a city of tomorrow. A decision with which the city has dealt with the consequences ever since.
In the decades following its reconstruction, Coventry became radical – arguably more so than any other city in the United Kingdom before or since. Like elsewhere in the UK, this radicalism came to a head in the decade of the 1970s, in which Coventry gave birth to organisations like the PEOPLE Party and witnessed the creation of the Lucas Plan – socialist movements that were some of the first to advocate zero-growth economics, decentralised governance, and socially beneficial production. Free from the weight of history thanks to a built environment which was freed from the baggage of the past, the residents of the city were able to think rationally about the world ahead. As such, the progressive socialist mindset fostered by the city’s rebuilding, came to exist in the people who called Coventry their home. For a brief time at least, its freedom from nostalgia nurtured progressive ideals.
The Lost City of Coventry acts as evidence of alternate future, one that has been collectively denied to us by our own history; a project which looks to preserve Coventry’s cultural heritage – a heritage of radical socialist thought brought about through the conditions of change, not paralysed by the mourning of it. Composed of three strategies to be commenced this January, the project re-frames Coventry’s accolade as the UK “City of Culture 2021” as an opportunity not for memorialisation but for further destruction, subtraction, and relocation. As such, it serves to reflect on what culture means today and provide optimism in the face of a world increasing fearful of what tomorrow may bring.