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A particular fascinationAuthor: Simon Sellars • Nov 2nd, 2007 •
John informs me of this slideshow over at the Guardian, to promote Simon Henley’s new book, The Architecture of Parking (Thames & Hudson, £24.95). According to the Guardian, the book ‘casts an objective eye over car parks, one of the most important but most neglected building types of the modern era, and finds a strange and haunting beauty.’
Of course, car parks also feature prominently in Ballard’s work, mysterious signifier of the ‘oblique personalities’, mental confusion, sexual exhaustion, and stylised posture that accompanies your average urban fringe dweller …
Take a structure like a multi-storey car park, one of the most mysterious buildings ever built. Is it a model for some strange psychological state, some kind of vision glimpsed within its bizarre geometry? What effect does using these buildings have on us? Are the real myths of this century being written in terms of these huge unnoticed structures?
J.G. Ballard. ‘Crash!’ (short film; 1971).
- ABOVE: The Tricorn Centre, Portsmouth, designed by The Owen Luder Partnership. Photograph: Sue Barr/Thames & Hudson. Via the Guardian.
Usually accompanied by Leonora Carrington, he visited the Mullard radio-observatory near Cambridge and the huge complex of early warning radar installations on the Suffolk coast. For some reason, empty swimming pools and multi-storey car parks exerted a particular fascination. All these he seems to have approached as the constituents of a mental breakdown which he might choose to recruit at a later date.
J.G. Ballard. ‘Notes Towards A Mental Breakdown’ (1967).
- ABOVE: Debenhams, Welbeck Street, London, designed by Michael Blampied. Photograph: Sue Barr/Thames & Hudson. Via the Guardian.
From the window of his office, Dr Nathan watched Talbert standing on the roof of the multi-storey car park. The deserted deck was a favourite perch. The inclined floors seemed a model of Talbert’s oblique personality, forever meeting the events of time and space at an invisible angle.
J.G. Ballard. ‘The Great American Nude’ (1968).
- ABOVE: Marine Parade, Worthing. Photograph: Sue Barr/Thames & Hudson. Via the Guardian.
He remembered these pleasures: the conjunction of her exposed pubis with the polished contours of the bidet; the white cube of the bathroom quantifying her left breast as she bent over the handbasin; the mysterious eroticism of the multi-storey car park, a Krafft-Ebing of geometry and posture; her flattened thighs on the tiles of the swimming pool below; her right hand touching the finger-smeared panel of the elevator control.
J.G. Ballard. ‘The Summer Cannibals’ (1969).
- ABOVE: Takasaki Parking Building. Photograph courtesy of Kengo Kuma & Associates. Photograph: Thames & Hudson. Via the Guardian.
Too many car parks — always a sign of a troubled mind.
J.G. Ballard. Super-Cannes (2000).
- ABOVE: Parc des Celestins, Lyon, designed by Michael Targe, Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Daniel Buren. Photograph courtesy of Lyon Parc Auto. Via the Guardian.
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