Demolition Theory

Space, Time and the City

by Michael R. Allen

Proposition: The city is a series of arrested moments of time called “spaces.” The only way in which we know architectural spaces exist is through navigation — movement in time that suggests space.


Who is above the law of time? Who can arrest a moment?

Who gets to define what moments are more worthy of replay through the perpetuation of some spaces and the annihilation of others?

Does the destruction of space then become an onslaught against time itself? The destruction of an arrested moment seems futile. In the end, we all have time and only some us seem to have spaces.

Ultimately, no one can own a moment. Such ownership would require control of time itself. Whether or not anyone can own a space in time is also questionable.

Moments are frightening to anyone who wants total control of history. To those who find in the arrested moments some delight, time is not an erasure of our works or of our dominance but a succession of joy. One moment’s passage into the next creates a new possibility — like movement across the urban landscape from one building to the next.

As we move through time, we create spaces built out of moments. Viewed in light of a live lived in time, preservation of space is the suggestion that certain momentary experiences are joyous and worth repeated experience, and that the coexistence of such experiences is desirable. Those who disregard such moments seem to suggest that time itself should be conquered for a unitary idea.

(Photograph: Demolition of a storefront building at the southeast corner of Union and St. Louis, August 2006.)