Best Building to Blow Up
The Renaissance Center
In 1984, searching for a way to describe the unearthly landscape of architect-developer-capitalist John Portman’s Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, literary critic Fredric Jameson coined the term “postmodern hyperspace.” According to Jameson, the Bonaventure and its sister developments like the Ren Cen produced spaces so new that people lacked the “cognitive maps” —spatial brains — to navigate these insular worlds enclosed by glass and devoid of context, with their obscured entrances and continually rising and falling escalators and elevators.
Metro Times readers don’t need Jameson to recall the ambivalence toward the Ford Family or John Portman’s mall-inspired politics, the stark disjoint between “their” vision of Detroit’s plastic future and the true revolution that a rebirth of the city would necessitate. And despite the new GM proposals (a river promenade, new access roads, blowing up the berm) to make the building accessible and (assumedly) human, an understanding of what some well-placed plastic explosives could do still seems appropriate.
But for those of us who grew up in spaces like the Ren Cen (Detroit’s techno generation), there is no spatial vertigo. And the faux-revolution, held out by the Ford family in the aftermath of the riots, really was a renaissance.
And though it may grate against our lives, as locals we should, as Jameson put it, “grow new organs, to expand our sensorium and our body to some new, yet unimaginable, perhaps ultimately impossible, dimensions.”