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Infrastructures | Ruth Dusseault

October 16, 2009

BeginningDeck copy

Reading the post ephemeral-infrastructures at mammoth we discovered this great photographer that is Ruth Dusseault, visiting assistant professor and artist in residence at the College of Architecture in Georgia Tech. She has been working in these topics since 1998 when she was panelist in “Global Metropolis: Re(de)signing the Non-Site.” Most of her pictures are focused on the radical transformation of different landscapes, this time on the transformation of Atlanta’s derelict Atlantic Steel Industries complex into Atlantic Station, as Rob Holmes quotes on mammoth’s post.

Dusseault has divided her research and documentation work in five parts:  The Old Steel Mill (1999), Demolition (2000), Infrastructure (2001), Parking Deck (2003) and The New City (2004) and her statements for this work are:

“I am fascinated by the utopian vision of architects and urban designers, particularly what happens when those visions become reality. My interest in invented realities arose from a childhood surrounded by tourist attractions in central Florida . Since 1999, I have conducted long term project photographing the radical transformation of Atlanta ‘s last large scale industrial site. Now called Atlantic Station, it is a new urban commercial and residential development in the heart of midtown. At 138 acres, with a budget exceeding two billion dollars, it is the largest urban redevelopment in the U.S.

Although a federal survey concluded that Atlantic Steel Industries had historic status, none of its buildings were incorporated into the new design. In the spirit of preservation, I photographed the mill buildings in the winter of 1999 before they were demolished, creating a document of the industrial age in Atlanta . When I learned it was destined to become a complete city within a city, I decided to continue photographing while the history and identity of the landscape underwent its dramatic transformation. I recorded the demolition, the environmental engineering and each stage of construction. The last photographs show the new architecture of Atlantic Station as a fully designed space, yet unmarked by human activity. By recording this change, the history of the site will not only be seen in before and after pictures. The stages in between which speak in broader terms about nature and technology – will always be part of the city’s memory.”

This time we’re going to share part of the Infrastructure serie and hope to make some updates about Dusseault’s work in the future:


Deck Ramp Moldings copy

retaining wall with water

We found out at the wiki that the word infrastructure was imported from French, where it means subgrade, the native material underneath a constructed pavement or railway. The word is a combination of the Latin prefix “infra”, meaning “below” and “structure”. The military sense of the word was probably first used in France, and imported into English around the time of the First World War. The military use of the term achieved currency in the United States after the formation of NATO in the 1940s, and was then adopted by urban planners in its modern civilian sense by 1970.

The interesting point about this kind of photographic documentation is that these urban lanscapes have an ephemeral live, as they change quickly while the construction is going on. These are the only memories that we can keep about our new rapidly growing cities.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 15, 2010 10:17 am

    Ruth Dusseault’s compelling new work looks at the recreational war games that occur within depleted suburban spaces. As a visual geographer—an explorer and sometime ethnographer of an exuberant and slightly dystopic American frontier—Dusseault brings to legibility what might be called the aftercity, post-urban social forms that are both new and strangely primal. What defines this world, she submits, is a variety of war consciousness that otherwise abides mostly in virtual space—conflict suffused with fantasy and color, combat without death or triumph, depredation without loss or reproach.
    – from Emory University Visual Arts program

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