Thursday, November 26, 2020

Built to Break

Time, time time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please
Look around
Leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

—Paul Simon
At a time when time has no meaning, it's still possible to give the side-eye to its passing.

In 1956 a neon, pink elephant sign was installed on a busy corner in Seattle. It stood there for 64 years, becoming an iconic little landmark along the way.

And, now it's gone.

The owner of the property said his company has no current plans for the empty lot, but the sign had to go—maybe he just hates beloved local landmarks, IDK.

Some cultures worked *so* hard to remind future generations of their existence. They built myriad pyramids, edifices, and monuments that survived millennia. They trundled and carved and stacked stone in centuries-long endeavors that their descendants could gawk at *forever*.

Americans, meanwhile, are over here tearing shit down for any reason, or no reason at all. Our most enduring brand is intentional obsolescence. There's a whole "impermanent" school of thought in American architecture, for example, that prefers transient design and construction because more long-standing buildings are "too restrictive."

Currently the largest (and probably most permanent) human-made structures on Earth are the tailings ponds of the Alberta oil sands project. They're big enough to be seen from orbit, and contain "a toxic slurry of heavy metals and hydrocarbons from the bitumen separation process."

Our descendants, if they're able, will gawk for different reasons, probably not out of admiration for our ingenuity.

Where was I? Oh, the pink elephant.

Its loss is nothing, of course, in the time of COVID and other pressing issues. Besides a few maudlin Seattleites, who's gonna miss it?

With that in mind, we should absolutely tear down the Space Needle. It's been taking up valuable real estate since 1963, and you can bet Amazon would love to get its hands on that land.

Also, the Monorail? Totally overbuilt anachronism. You know what would be more in keeping with our love of cheap thrills and turning a quick buck? The perfect monument to a distractible, transitory culture?

A zip line!
"The 5,000-pound sign will first go to Western Neon in Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood for conservation work, before heading to the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in South Lake Union."

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