“Architecture is endowed with an inherent spirituality that fulfills its own self”.
—José Villagran, Mexican architect
Precincts have a lifespan, since they are designed to meet its inhabitant's needs. They depend on those who dwell within them to fulfill their purpose and attain what has been their main feature to this day: "being an habitable and displaceable structure that renders and sustains life as we know it."
Life evolves constantly along with the spaces it inhabits. What causes a building's demise and complete abandonment? The answer is simple: economy. Money is what rules property ownership and ensures the survival of a city and its outskirts. As money begins to leach away, cracks appear on the surface, and slowly the buildings' inhabitants become phantoms and nostalgic memories.
Urban developers always seek out cheap lands to provide affordable homes based on the families purchasing power, and although there are enough statistics to prove that the economy is the main cause, it is not the only one.
Let us analyze the root cause in order to shine a different light onto the urbane and social phenomena that causes this neglect and abandonment of spaces that once in a distant past enveloped life within its walls and now remain soulless. Abandoned structures are voids in the cities –an extinguished light amidst an urbane succession that is both every man’s and no man’s land, and are irrelevant and, in most cases, overlooked by bystanders.
Architectural ruins can lead to opportunities of economic profit for developers that seek to reactivate local economy. For a homeless person, they can be a potential shelter to spend a night, a week, a year, or a lifetime. Architectural ruins hold a myriad of possibilities and situations if we look away from their previous identity, that is, before they ended up soulless and adrift.
“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was lived has moved away into a representation.”
—Theory of the Derive, Guy Debord
Progress is the creation of newer and more favorable conditions for a space, place or precinct, and the abandonment of the old that is deemed obsolete. Fate plays a big part on this: as you walk down the street and by chance you come upon a derelict building, it is just a matter of looking beyond the cracks and emptiness to see the potential it lies within and thus bring it back to life.
It is quite a challenge to see and interpret a space whose past meaning is lost and left on its own, unable to fully evolve.
Since the purpose of architecture is to enhance people’s surroundings, you may like reading about the 7 Real Places that Inspired our Favorite Disney Movies and The Mexican Art Route Every Artist Should Know.
Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia