THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION
It’s hard to find original gift ideas.
While searching for a Valentine’s Day present, I remembered a conversation I had with the director Sara Driver in Rotterdam. She told me about Boym Studio’s Buildings of Disaster series. Small postmodern totems, the series consists of bonded nickel sculptures of sites like the Chernobyl nuclear reactors, the Unabomber’s Cabin (pictured, right), the L.A. freeway during the O.J. Simpson chase, the Waco Complex, and, yes, the World Trade Center. Reading about the sculptures, one would imagine them to be pieces of ghoulish kitsch. Seeing them in person, though, they come off as strange and eerie artifacts of our own psychic histories.
Design partners Constantin Boym and Laurene Leon Boym describe the series in a short manifesto that is equal parts Robert Venturi and J.G. Ballard: “Buildings of Disaster are miniature replicas of famous structures where some tragic or terrible events happened to take place. Some of these buildings may have been prized architectural landmarks, others, non-descript anonymous structures. But disaster changes everything. The images of burning or exploded buildings make a different, populist history of architecture, one based on emotional involvement rather than scholarly appreciation. In our media-saturated time, the world disasters stand as people’s measure of history, and the sites of tragic events often become involuntary tourist attractions.”
I bought the Alma Tunnel, where Princess Diana crashed.
Buildings of Disaster are available from Moss in New York City or through Boym’s Web site, which also features a variety of other design objects and three short films depicting the firm’s gallery-installation work.