In his novel, The World Without Us, Alan Weisman contemplates nature's ability to reclaim the earth when and if an opportunity arises. If humans are to neglect a constant upkeep and development of built form, nature's power is quick to manifest itself and revert back to a landscape previous to architectural form.
At the time I read these ideas, the concepts seemed surreal and intangible to a committed city-girl. In my mind, the massive structures of concrete and steel I surround myself with day after day serve as fortresses against nature's commanding, yet subtle presence in this city.
Then I discovered Admiral's Row, a stretch of Second Empire style homes once occupied by naval officers at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. The property is now owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, although the original Navy yard was closed in the mid-1960's and all homes were abandoned by the mid-1970's. Some of the houses date back to the civil war, and much debate has been waged over whether or not the properties could qualify for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places. I've now found mixed accounts regarding the future of this property. Many call for the preservation of these historic structures, making strong cases for adaptive reuse and restoration. Others fight for the razing of the entire property in order to make room for a new supermarket and commercial center.
I'm sure you can all guess which option I would support, so rather than entangle this entry in the decades of debate regarding this land, I encourage you to read a selection from the New York Times documenting the potential demolition of the homes as well as The Municipal Art Society's plea for preservation. These sites link to a wealth of research and facts and highlight two options for the future of this space.
However, what truly fascinates me is what is happening on the land at this very moment. I refer back to Weisman's ideas and contemplate a world without human influence. The following photos speak for themselves as proof that nature truly does have the ultimate power in a constant struggle to sustain. One has to wonder what would happen if the landscape is left to reign in this environment. The evident dichotomy present in these photos highlights a struggle between order and chaos, a disconnect between man and nature. Observing this scene is at once serene and disturbing; perhaps it is this duality that creates a true beauty in an absence of place. Enjoy.