Meme Manifesto #2







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Toxic Nostalgia

Royal College of Art, 2014-15
Nicola Koller & Tom Greenall 

The twentieth century began with futuristic utopia but ended with nostalgia. "Optimism in the future was discarded like an outmoded spaceship sometime in the 1960s", suggests Svetlana Boym. Since then, culture has been beset by what Franco Berardi describes as  "slow cancellation of the future", where linear progression has given way to a strange simultaneity and where the present only exists with respect to the past. 

As a culture, we currently adore nostalgia. While previous eras may have borrowed and repurposed visuals from past generations, design recycling today has reached a new high. The fetishisation of nostalgia artefacts, process and representations has led to a crisis of subjectivity that is affecting both the design and production of buildings as well as the critical evaluation of architecture. This year, ADS4 set out to question whether this resurgence of nostalgia in design can create a progressive architectural culture or whether it impedes real progress. Has nostalgia become a toxic force in design?  

The route of Crossrail has provided the site for our investigations. As it draws a new cross section through London, from Berkshire to Essex, it brings inflated land value, new demographics and rapid changes in local identity. Popping up along its path, we have imagined the new worlds and highly specific local communities that might soon exist. 

Our future, Franco Berardi argues, has come and gone; the concept has lost its usefulness. Now it is our responsibility to decide what comes next. 

© Thomas Greenall