Homoginator Part 1

16 07 2012

This is a rework of a pretty fun fictional piece I wrote for a university subject,  a bit of a manifesto . I had a real city in mind when I wrote it, but have just left it now as any city, feel free to insert your own city when thinking about it. This is part one. More to follow, enjoy!

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Death of the Homoginator

 

The Homoginator, the physical manifestation of a process used to destroy a city’s identity.

 

Imagined as a giant grinding machine the Homoginator swoops upon cities and turns place to space. Sucking the essence and soul out of urban environments, leaving only the saleable shadows of what were once unique segments of urban life. The Homoginator inserts an easily interpreted culture to areas whose culture is deemed inadequate, uncomfortable or dangerous.

 

Through the Anti-Movement, a collective effort of individual engagement with their city, the people diminish and destroy the Homoginator. By finding ways to co-inhabit the margins of their city, the Edge Space, and embrace a dynamic interpretation of place, the citizens reinvented their city.  This engagement of people and their city became an Icon throughout the world.

~~~~~~~~~

The world’s fossil fuel supplies had been depleted and carbon pollution was choking the planet. The effect had been dramatic; a city historically tied to manufacturing and oil refining was suffering. Financial turmoil had shaken the people. Vast numbers of commercial and industrial properties lay vacant. The city was vulnerable.

Mired in a crisis of identity dislocation; surrounded by a herd of similar metropolis’. This city was a bypass, an obstacle, struggling to assert its own identity. The people sought an agent of change. The Homoginator appeared and promised a paradise. This paradise became a consumer paradise, an architectural, spatial and cultural abomination; a paradise that consumed the city, leaving void space[1].

The Homoginator showed how none of their current challenges or suffering were present in the past. The Homoginator promised to restore the glories of the past to the city. Dazzled by how bright their past had been, no one asked about the future.

Precedents were shown of cities the world over that had been transformed by the Homoginator. Citizens of those cities were happy to hand control to their homogenising machine. The residents of the city were told they could feel at home in any of the interchangeable Homoginator’s cities[2].

The people welcomed the Homoginator. They welcomed the convenience, the freedom from having to think about elements of the city they found uncomfortable. The Homoginator was only doing what was needed to improve the city they said, nothing more.

The Homoginator set upon the city with full force. Visible signs were everywhere, palm trees appeared to let people know a beach was imminent; giant shopping malls descended, crushing locals with their global scale and strength; the waterfront was gentrified. The city forgot who it was and what it wanted to be. The city had been tricked into thinking it was another generic city, a consumerist paradise without a soul.

The creation of the Homoginator was led by society’s historical perception of change and treatment of progress as an object of fear[3]. If everything was the same then there could be no change. The Homoginator excluded anyone it perceived as a challenge to its vision of normality, divisions were highlighted, difference became dangerous.

Architecture and design were tools of the Homoginator in the creation of spaces that do not say or do anything. Endless space that is in a constant state of transition, neither new or old, high or low, just there[4].The Homoginator had created Junkspace[5].

Junkspace had taken firm hold in the city; the gigantic shopping malls dominated the downtown space, impoverishing nearby strip shopping precincts and sitting adjacent to disjointed open spaces that were neither for people or cars. The Homoginator encouraged an illiteracy towards the places the people had lived in, leading to the destruction and homogenisation of the very elements of the city that make the city[6].

The Homoginator, with control as its sole desire, had been adaptive to changes in ideological movements.  A formalist centralised modernism or the excessive decontextualisation of postmodernism only led to differing tactics[7]. Postmodernism brought about the superficial cutting and pasting of cultural & heritage to package cities, renovated industrial properties, local culture museums, architectural forms built into the landscape referencing rose coloured versions of the past[8]. The Homoginator was turning layers of history into simple saleable kitsch[9].

The Homoginator soon turned on the people. Individual thoughts were now processed; the ability to perceive and conceive new ideas was reduced. The Homoginator distributed thoughts and perceptions to the people, enabling them to enjoy and interact more easily with their new homogenised city.

The Homoginator kept operating under its own control. More changes were made. Less of the city was able to be distinguished from what was there before the Homoginator arrived. Homogenisation of the city’s unique places had led to the destruction of the very experience people previously sought out[10].  Homogenous Zones were created throughout the city, filled with Junkspace, stripped of authenticity, inoffensive caricatures of their former selves. These Homogenous Zones were programmed by the Homoginator for industrial scale consumption, distorting and draining any sense of place.

An Icon was installed in the city, a generic object with which to draw generic people. This object could not become iconic, it had no meaning[11].  Designed by the Homoginator to brand the city; this iconic object, just the same as large edifices the Homoginator had installed the world over, complete with gift shop and t-shirts, was a monument to a bourgeois elite tradition of dominance benefitting only the chosen few[12]. This ‘icon’ became the symbol of control for the Homoginator.

The Homoginator had used the city’s history and culture as fuel, sucking at the essence of individuality only to pump out a standardised product. By selectively stripping back the layers of the complexity the city the Homoginator at once created a hierarchy of value in the city[13]. Elements of the city that did not fit with this vision were pushed aside or erased[14].  History was rewritten and divergence became marginalised, dissidents vilified[15].


[1] Koolhaas, R. (1995). The Generic City. In R. Koolhaas, & B. Mau, S, M, L, XL (pp. 1248-1257, 1260-1264). New York: The Monacelli Press. p 1254  Koolhaas. Koolhaas breaks down the sameness of the modern city, where every element can be interchangeable with cities in other regions of the world. This is a dystopian view of the evolution of modern architecture, population, urbanism, politics, program, identity and history into generic representations of what were once individualising elements.

[2] Koolhaas, R. (1995). The Generic City. In R. Koolhaas, & B. Mau, S, M, L, XL (pp. 1248-1257, 1260-1264). New York: The Monacelli Press. p 1254  Koolhaas discusses how we may be losing our ability to decipher our city. There is a language of the city though without “patient detection we have developed an illiteracy and blindness toward it.

[3] Carr, E. H. (2008). What is History? London: Penguin Books. p155.

[4] Klingmann, A. (2007). Marketing without Marketeers. Cambridge Massachusets & London: MIT Press. Klingman discusses the notion of Nobrow a morphation of cultural and artistic elements blurring traditional lines of taste and class, no high or low, everything equal.

[5] Koolhaas, R. (2002, Spring). Junkspace. Obsolescence, October,Vol. 100, pp. 175-190. Junkspace  is an idea, a critique of modern architecture and urban spaces, the sameness and meaninglessness of architectural creations such as airports and shopping malls put forward by Rem Koolhaas. In Koolhaas’s view this Junkspace has become a major (un)identifier of cities, if the development of human spaces is allowed to continue with a view only to maximise capital Koolhaas’s the conclusion is that Junkspace will eventually be all space.

[6] Koolhaas, R. (1995). The Generic City. In R. Koolhaas, & B. Mau, S, M, L, XL (pp. 1248-1257, 1260-1264). New York: The Monacelli Press. p 1254  Koolhaas discusses how we may be losing our ability to decipher our city. There is a language of the city though without “patient detection we have developed an illiteracy and blindness toward it.

[7] Philo, C., & Kearns, G. (1993). Culture, History, Capital: A Critical Introduction to the Selling of Places. In G. Kearns, & C. Philo (Eds.), Selling Places: The City as Cultual Capital, Past and Present (pp. 1-29). Oxford, England: Pergamon Press Ltd. p 23.

[8] Philo, C., & Kearns, G. (1993). Culture, History, Capital: A Critical Introduction to the Selling of Places. In G. Kearns, & C. Philo (Eds.), Selling Places: The City as Cultual Capital, Past and Present (pp. 1-29). Oxford, England: Pergamon Press Ltd. p 22. A manipulation of cultural elements was unfolding, dislocating them from their proper context and rendering them meaningless and alienating them from the segments of the community for whom they had been historically attached. Marketable pastiches such as theme parks, simulations of rituals or events or hyped up monuments were part of urban vernacular.

[9] Khalaf, S. (n.d.). Contested space and the forging of new cultural identities. In Socio-Economic Framework (pp. 140-164). p 141. Khalaf writes about the vulgarisation historical and indigenous cultural elements in Beirut, turning genuine into kitsch.

[10] Tudor, B. (2008). Local Lookouts as Places of Belonging and Escape. In F. Vanclay, M. Higgins, & A. Blackshaw (Eds.), Making Sense of Place (pp. 221-227). Canberra: National Museum of Australia. Tudor discussed the experience of place to locals and visitors and how this experience differed. Local people rewrite the narrative of place over time with layers of association and meaning.  The depth of this experience has always been hard to pass on to visitors.

[11] Holt, D. B. (2004). How Brands Become Icons. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. p 1.Oxford English Dictionary defines Icon as “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol, especially of a culture or a movement; a person or an institution considered worthy of admiration or respect”. Holt adds Icons are ‘symbols people accept as a shorthand to represent important ideas.” In the first chapter Holt goes on to outline the difference between truly iconic brands an those which do not reach this status. The myth and meaning people assign to an Icon is the main differentiator.

[12] Philo, C., & Kearns, G. (1993). Culture, History, Capital: A Critical Introduction to the Selling of Places. In G. Kearns, & C. Philo (Eds.), Selling Places: The City as Cultual Capital, Past and Present (pp. 1-29). Oxford, England: Pergamon Press Ltd. p 11.Philo & Kearns discuss the power exerted by an ‘urban elite’ externally and within the city. On differing scales and in many incarnations this control has always been part of urban societies since humans began to form cities.

[13] Meyer, E. (1994). Landscape Architecture as Modern Other and Post Modern Ground. In H. Edquist, & V. Bird (Eds.), The Culture of Landscape Architecture, EDGE Publishing, (pp. 13-34). Melbourne. p 19.

[14] Porter, N. (2007). Landscapes and Branding: The Global Market for Place. Globalisation and Landscape Architecture: Issues for Education and Practice. St Petersburg: St Petersburg State Polytechnic University/Polytechnic University Publishing House. The branding strategy of Brand Blue Mountains is an all-encompassing strategy of control over how the Blue Mountains are marketed. Text, images and colours are managed in the BBM strategy, Porter queries this limited vision of place. A more broad interpretation of saleable place needs to be considered to enhance experience and expresseion.

[15] Koolhaas, R. (1995). The Generic City. In R. Koolhaas, & B. Mau, S, M, L, XL (pp. 1248-1257, 1260-1264). New York: The Monacelli Press. p 1262 Koolhaas is writing about the Generic city and how resistance to postmodernism is labelled antidemocratic, this enables it to create a ‘stealth wrapping’ making it irresistible. The Homoginator uses the same tactics to quell any opposition.

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