Broken Houses

Ofra Lapid’s “Broken Houses” project creates small scale models from photographs of abandoned, decaying structures in North Dakota. The models are then photographed and arranged to produce a large series of images. There is something both poetic and tragic about these photographs, which parallel Thomas Fisher’s discussion of the depreciating housing market and large-scale deterioration of infrastructure in the United States. In his essay, “Designing for Durability”, he stresses that our society is incredibly mobile and home owners will often move out when their home begins to deteriorate or wear—becoming a society that leaves many structures behind. He states, “…despite the emphasis some place on private property rights, we have already begun to act as a nomadic people, moving on when times get tough, while still wanting buildings that look solid and recall a time when people stayed in one place much longer than we do now.”

Like Lapid’s abandoned structures, the I35-W bridge collapse also exemplifies neglected infrastructure. Fisher’s “Fracture Critical” essay identified the I35-W bridge collapse not only as a warning to avoid fracture critical design, but also an encouragement to use past development strategies to improve our current situation and benefit our future society. He specifically notes that we need to transition from a very fixed, permanent type of architecture to one that is more temporary and can be easily transported if, or when, a disaster occurs (as our ancestors did). This would also cause a shift in how many currently view private property: as a personal possession which can be exploited regardless of any larger group consequences. Fisher states, “When we look at how humans have lived for most of our history, it forces us to rethink property not as something fixed, but instead as something that we take with us as conditions warrant. This, in turn, suggests that the land itself becomes not ours to own, use and exploit as we wish, but instead ours to protect for our use and that of our children and grandchildren for generations to come.” I strongly agree that there needs to be a shift toward more temporary, resilient structures, which would not only be a better match for our very mobile population, but would also create a stronger sense of shared responsibility among property owners and decrease the amount of abandoned, decaying structures in the United States.

Fisher, Thomas. “Designing for Durability.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012.

Fisher, Thomas. “Fracture Critical.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012.

Lapid, Ofra. “Broken Houses.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <;.


One comment

  1. lexxx329

    I think Ofra Lapid’s idea of recreating models from photos of dilapidated buildings is a very intriguing concept. Although the photos are remarkable and are powerful, especially when arrayed, it makes me wonder how the act of photography changes the level of connectivity to the actual subjects that are being depicted. There are two jumps in mediums that occur by first making a model and then taking a photo of it. This makes me question if it furthers our distance from the actual structures in them because it a photo of a representation and not the actual subject.

    I imagine that the actual photos of the structures could be quite powerful on their own or even in conjunction with the models of them for a three-dimensional viewing experience. To me, taking a photo of a model of a photo seems a bit redundant. That being said, the photos of the images are haunting and seem to be like a catalog of objects, which is intriguing considering the fact that the subject matter is old structures that have been discarded like old house-hold products. I guess it boils down to what the artist is trying to achieve with her project. For documentary purposes I think there is a lot that is lost when the buildings are isolated and do not display the context of their surroundings; conversely, it is a very successful technique when seen as a critique of our abandonment of old structures.

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