Necropolis | Antonio S. Río Vázquez

Interior of the German neighborhood in Dugway | Photography: Joe C. Freeman |

Models of architecture exist, tests before the final construction where they make concrete, contributing material and time, the terms that will allow to solve in a more suitable way the project. But also there exist anatomical, cartographic, playful models … that represent or serve to the life to scale.

Arthur Nersesian, in his novel Staten Island, us presents a type of very different model: Uli, the protagonist, wakes up in the middle of an uncivilized and dangerous city, which it is crossing up to discovering that it is a question of an immense reproduction of New York located in the heart of the desert of Nevada. It is a question of the model turned into experiment, into inhabitable laboratory.

As this version of the Great Apple, there exist models realized with military ends, as sets of cinema projected to be used by royal actors. A village is constructed by the Brigade of Light Infantry in Willow grove, near Pontevedra, imitates an Afghan settlement to scale 1:1, with his streets, houses and mosques. A reply ghost, lived temporary and theatrically for the alive ones and the possible dead men.

Though the places for warlike simulations are increasingly abundant and “more “authentic” in the virtual worlds, his presence in the real world constitutes one of the most singular examples of models, to half a way between the scenery and the necropolis.

Between all of them stand out in a special  way the germany and japones neighborhoods constructed in 1943 by the army of the United States inside the Dugway Proving Ground, in the desert of Utah. The army recruited privately the exiled architect Erich Mendelsohn, who planned a city which final destination was – inevitably – to be destroyed.

The model had the precision of the royal model: the same set designers of the golden epoch of Hollywood defined the interiors up to the point of equalizing the German linen of the curtains or of duplicating the furniture that were used habitually as matrimonial ability in the houses of the Berlin proletariat.

Mendelsohn worried that the used wood was answering the aging and the specific qualities of the old constructions of his natal land. Only this way they could check the behavior adapted on having inflamed them. The realism removed at the level of watering the aims regularly to simulate the Prussian rain in the dry and arid climate of Utah.

Parallel, Antonin Raymond -disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright – was employed at the design of the Japanese neighborhood, using of his experience as connoisseur of the architecture of Japan, country in which it had lived before the war. But here it was not a question of applying his knowledge to him as builder, if not as destroyer. Since he remembered in his memories ” The parts were armed then in the Proving Ground and submitted to bombardment. Immediately after being destroyed, new others were getting up, until the result was satisfactory “. They were completely royal buildings furnished with all the typical elements of the Japanese house, though projected for those who were going to die.

he history of  this and other modern necropolis is magnificently counted in book as Mike Davis Dead cities. And Other Tales. Davis reports since everything the complex of Utah was dinamitado with thermite and napalm, and reconstructed completely at least three times between May and September, 1943. The model and the architecture had turned into perfect tools for the war or, probably, it is that always they it had been.

antonio s. río vázquez . architect
a coruña. january 2013

Antonio S. Río Vázquez (A Coruña, 1981) es arquitecto por la E.T.S.A. de A Coruña, master en Urbanismo y doctor por la Universidade da Coruña. Especializado en teoría y diseño, su línea de trabajo se ha centrado en la investigación y divulgación del patrimonio arquitectónico moderno. Ha desarrollado proyectos de modo independiente y ha colaborado con varios estudios de arquitectura. Es socio fundador de Aroe Arquitectura. Es profesor en el Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, Urbanismo y Composición de la Universidade da Coruña, y ha sido profesor invitado en la Robert Gordon University de Aberdeen (Reino Unido), en la Universidade do Minho (Portugal) y en la Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza (Italia). Es miembro de la red UEDXX Urbanism of European Dictatorships during the XXth Century, del Grupo de Investigación en Historia de la Arquitectura IALA y del Grupo de Innovación Educativa en Historia de la Arquitectura. Ha formado parte del proyecto de investigación FAME Fotografía y Arquitectura Moderna en España, 1925-1965. Los resultados de sus investigaciones, tanto personales como conjuntas, han servido como aportación a eventos de debate y difusión científica y han sido publicados en libros y revistas.

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