Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Preserving Constructions

Mark Parascandola recently blogged about the history and fate of the Carabanchel prison in Madrid, a site he had the opportunity to photograph in October. A number of his photos of the prison are currently on view in the gallery as part of the exhibtion “Temporary Constructions”. Here is an excerpt from his blog:

Mark Parascandola, “Carabanchel 1”, 2008, pigment print

“The Carabanchel prison in Madrid is one of the most infamous architectural landmarks from Spain’s decades of dictatorship. General Francisco Franco ordered construction of the prison in the 1940s to house the regime’s many political prisoners. The complex is designed on the panopticon model, with the cell blocks extending outwards from a round central tower. This arrangement, first proposed by 17th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham, allowed guards to easily observe all areas of the prison and was intended to amplify the prisoners’ sensations of powerlessness.

“Carabanchel was finally closed in 1998 and its few remaining inhabitants moved to other prisons. Since then, the building has been heavily looted—all the metal gates and fixtures have been removed—and it has been visited by graffiti artists, drug addicts, gypsies and curious observers.

Mark Parascandola, “Carabanchel 2”, 2008, pigment print

“The Spanish government now wants to make the site available to private developers with plans for condominiums and a hospital. However, an informal group of architects, social workers, neighbors, and former prisoners have demanded that part of the prison be preserved as a memorial to those who suffered under the dictatorship. Members of the Platform for a Center for Peace and Memory have held a series of demonstrations and camped out near the site.

“Just a few weeks ago the fate of the structure appeared uncertain. A national judge had ordered a study of the prison for possible evidence relevant to ongoing investigations into crimes committed under Franco’s regime. And the Congress was debating legislation on the prison’s future. However, the Madrid city government effectively put an end to the debate by authorizing the start of demolition. Seventy people were removed from the complex, mostly Romanian gypsies who had been living on the site. Construction crews began work at 1:00 am on Wednesday October 22. By the following Saturday half of the 32-meter wide central c├║pula, the most architecturally significant element, had collapsed.”

Carabanchel and other architectural structures have been captured in time by Mark Parascandola and Stirling Elmendorf in the photographs of “Temporary Constructions” on exhibit through November 23rd.

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