Mind the Gap

February 21, 2019

 

"Mind the Gap" ..... A familiar warning for anyone who has used the London Underground, and a playful entry point from which to draw attention to the 'everyday' gaps left in London's built environment due to the Blitz.

A warning that resonates from the very place communities within London took shelter from the bombs. A metaphor that poignantly draws focus to an article in the Guardian by Sean O'Hagan as he asks, "what will happen to these haunting and haunted spaces as the seemingly unstoppable tide of capital transforms London, inevitably obliterating these all-too-human traces of an already distant city".

 

O'Hagan quotes war artist John Piper's notion that, “[w]hen it is all over, a few of the wrecked buildings might well be left as permanent ruins”, as he reviews Thom and Beth Atkinson’s photo-book called  'Missing Buildings', a 6 year study of the city's urban context reveling "where buildings once stood before the blitz". And posits a compelling reflection on social amnesia and the dichotomy between official and vernacular forms of commemorating the past.

 

The book and subsequent article surfaced today during research of the social narrative of buildings imbued with memories of violence. Struck by the stark importance of silent gaps and the richness of subtle local meaning in an urban context as socially dynamic and contemporary as London, I was compeled to comment that perhaps in the reminder from London's (historic and contemporary) underground fabric to mind the gap, society should be more mindful and acknowledge those made by war and to recognize the hazards of them sliding into obscurity.

 

O'Hagan suggests beautifully that the Atkins's work sets "London as a spectral memorial, frozen in time". 

 

Perhaps that's how they and others like them should remain........ 

 

 

 

 

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