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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Dead Island

posted by on November 14 at 13:41 PM

This is Bannerman’s Island:
BLDBLOG’s narrative:

Bannerman’s Island [is] an old, half-flooded and fire-damaged derelict mansion built on a small island in the Hudson River…

…As American Heritage describes it, “this island fortress was once the private arsenal of the world’s largest arms dealer.” And that was Frank “Francis” Bannerman.
Bannerman, we learn, “bought up ninety per cent of all captured guns, ammunition, and other equipment auctioned off after the Spanish-American War. He also bought weapons directly from the Spanish government before it evacuated Cuba. These purchases vastly exceeded the firm’s capacity at its store in Manhattan and filled three huge Brooklyn warehouses with munitions, including thirty million cartridges.”

…Bannerman died a week after the end of World War I – and the island had sunk into a state of “monumental decay” by the 1960s.

It was then gutted by arsonists.

In the 18th century, there was an understanding that might seem strange to us in the 21st century. A new building was not only judged for its existing beauty or elegance but also for how it would decay. Factored into the life of a building was its death, its form of decay, its method or way of falling apart. A building that looked good could be considered bad because it would look bad when it became a ruin. The Greeks, according to this view of things, were great architects because they made great ruins.

With the mansion and other structures on Bannerman’s Island, we come to another understanding: a building that is born bad might become great when it is dead. The ruins on the Island are simply beautiful.

RSS icon Comments


This is certainly applicable to the ugly fucking jigsaw puzzle condos and high-rises that are being built around Seattle these days. I have mixed feelings about them when they're new, but they pretty much all look like shit after about 10 years of weather.

Posted by Judah | November 14, 2007 2:36 PM

Charles, don't you know how to code a link? Can't someone show you how to do it?

Shaun O'Boyle's original photo entry:

Posted by Fnarf | November 14, 2007 2:58 PM

Thanks, Fnarf. I just spent 45 minutes on that website, and will probably spend another half hour or so.

Way to spoil a semi-productive work-day. :(

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 14, 2007 3:20 PM

I'm sorry, but can you cite an example supporting your thesis? Buildings may (or may not) decay elegantly simply because of the building materials and techniques available to them, same with the Greeks. To imply that this was a mindful choice by the architects or builders is a pretty thought, but of doubtful veracity.

Posted by Al | November 14, 2007 3:27 PM

the most beautiful buildings are the ruins, ethereal and empty

Posted by vooodooo84 | November 14, 2007 4:32 PM

My sentiments exactly, Al! My own feeling is that we think of ruins as beautiful because of a sentimentality we place on by-gone ages, which somehow represent a "simpler" or "purer" time to Western minds; at least when referencing Western ruins. "Exotic" and "mysterious" come to mind when thinking of Eastern ruins.

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