Territory and trans-gression


Pedro Daniel Pantaleone

From this crisis, and the persistence of crisis, a preventive accounting for the negative outcome of a progressive idea became here a teleology in itself.

The condition of metaphorical and material breakdown is present in the territory of Yekaterinburg and it is described by Muller and Trubina as ‘scrappiness’. They state that the detachment of reality from simulacra mentioned above, always made necessary to have a transversal orientation toward the dirtiness of the real-world, which is ‘always provisional and never perfect’.[8] 8 - Müller, M., and E. Trubina. ‘Improvising urban spaces, inhabiting the inbetween.’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 38:4 (2010): 664–681. The one that took into account since the beginning the possibility, if not the necessity, of failure.

In this regard, the same authors state that ‘Against the prevailing stereotype of Soviet urban planning…they had to reconcile the expectations laid down in countless plans with the unexpected events that kept overtaking those very plans: shortages of material and personnel, changes in political will, adverse environmental conditions and so on’. [9] 9 - Müller, M., and E. Trubina. ‘Improvising urban spaces, inhabiting the inbetween.’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 38:4 (2010): 664–681.

Scrap, material detriments, fragments, and corrupted residues now populate and degrade Degtjarsk. Because failure is not metabolized, the differentiated product of growth is delegitimized as ‘waste’. The inhabitants of this place, once deprived of that social intention are left empty and unidentified. Many of the miners of the city are not alive nowadays because of the toxicity of copper. Far from changing the path, normality in Degtjarsk proceeds in the exasperation of that same progressive logic. The aimless continuation of a failed project, the non-ideological ideology of post-modernity gives rise to feelings of bleak nostalgia. When this seemingly infinite ascension clashes, it produces, as was said: fragments; this time being of a sociological nature. Hereunder are given as an example extracts of people living in Degtjarsk who commented on various online platforms about their city.

‘Nice, big stadium. If it is repaired, it will be generally super. It is not functioning at the moment.’
– Comment taken from Google maps reviews. [emphasis added by the author, translation by the author]

‘Earlier in our city people were different. The trash was taken out on schedule. Now they can’t bring it to the tank. I meet a lot of ugly faces in the street before there were none. Drunkards, drug addicts. People don’t need anything; everyone cares about their own happiness.’
– The comment is taken from https://uralmines.ru/degtyarskij-rudnik/, blog discussion [translation by the author]

‘The brightest years are passed in Degtjarsk. Dad and I went around all the woods. How rich they were. Dad knew every source you could quench your thirst. After what you see, you acutely feel how life flows away and nothing can be turned back.’
– The comment is taken from https://uralmines.ru/degtyarskij-rudnik/, blog discussion [translation by the author]

It is particularly interesting that by ‘accident’ we can find in these words hints to certain escapism that has been the way of trans-gressing the defiant nature of civilization from Baudelaire to the beat generation. This brings us closer to a resistance that can metabolize the failure of progress, or, even better than that, it can make intentional and structural the necessary differential nature of a teleology.

This brings us closer to the concept of trans-gression itself as an alternative model that rises from this condition. The ‘revival of the dead’ as Emery calls it, is the making intentional of the ‘ugliness’ of civilization, the ‘normalization’ of the destructive counter-part of civilized space.

As the inevitable product of projects, destruction can be implemented in the form of different spatial or architectural gestures. To pick up Baudelaire, and Emery on Baudelaire, to whom the notion of artificial paradises meant a congruence with an alternative, transversal reality, we see how ‘the spectrum of a different poiesis, strong of its provocative poverty, starts to wander around looking to organize, even if in a way that is still only allusive with rags and garbage, the meanings and forms of separation. The reverse of the city, its negative, its dead, begins to prove to be elaborable and creative’.[10] 10 - Emery, N. Distruzione e Progetto. Milano: Marinotti, 2010. A transversal orientation towards failure then is, in this case, a stimulating act of neutral and powerful re-imagination. The creation of a trajectory intersecting and making use of the horizontal and collateral products of the overflowing discontent of civilization, the anti-aesthetic side of our cities of infrastructures.


TU Delft / Faculty of Architecture