From the straight boulevards that “demolition artist” Haussmann smashed through rambling old Paris to the frenzied implosion of Las Vegas hotel towers, demolition has long played an ambiguous role in the architectural imagination. Author Jeff Byles will survey the evolution of unbuilding techniques, as old-school wreckers evolved into highly adept practitioners of “structural jujitsu.” Highlights will include pioneering figures such as Jacob Volk (the colorful New York City “destructionist” who crumbled skyscrapers in the Wall Street area) and epochal unbuilding feats such as the implosion of the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis. As ever grander structures topple to make way for the new, Byles examines the profound impact the “disappearance” of tall buildings makes on the skyline and the urban psyche.
Jeff Byles is an author and journalist who has written about architecture, urbanism, and culture for The New York Times, The Village Voice, Metropolis, Modern Painters, Cabinet, The Believer, and other publications. His book Rubble: Unearthing the History of Demolition was named a Best Book of the Year by The Village Voice and Time Out New York