Gone but not forgotten: The Rubble Club is an organisation to remember buildings demolished in their architect’s lifetime. The Club is open to all who have had buildings destroyed in their lifetime. The Club has three key ground rules: Firstly the building’s architect must be alive and not party to its destruction, secondly the building must be built with the intention of permanence (exhibitions, shops and interiors are not eligible) and thirdly it must be deliberately destroyed or radically altered, it can’t simply burn down.
The Rubble Club is not a new idea. It is in fact the brainchild of one Isi Metzstein, who hatched it some 10 years ago at an Aberdeen School of Architects external examination dinner.
With more and more architects witnessing the demise of their creations, it was felt appropriate to set up an organisation for them; originally called The Macallan Club, after the founders favourite tipple.
However, in taking the idea forward Prospect felt using somebody else’s trademark could be a problem hence the new name. However, the tipple consumed at our events could provide a consistent link with the past.
Membership of this august institution is progressive and is based on Metzstein’s original ethos: “The club is open to all who have had buildings destroyed in their lifetimes, simple as that. There are very few rules, we never meet up, I don’t even know who they all are! Self knowledge makes you a member of the club, it’s all a fantasy but not an entirely empty fantasy”.
Certain ground rules have nonetheless been put forward as means of providing club coherence. Firstly the building’s architect must be alive and not party to its destruction, secondly the building must be built with the intention of permanence (exhibitions, shops and interiors are not eligible) and thirdly it must be deliberately destroyed or radically altered, it can’t simply burn down Metzstein growls: “The worst thing you can do is connive in the destruction of your own building and such involvement would lead to lifetime disbarment from the club.”
Wanton destruction of serviceable architecture is a pet peeve for Metzstein: “Architects are not trying to say a building is good or bad. Buildings should be reused as much as possible, careless knocking down of landmarks illustrates the fragility of their masterworks. I’m a great believer that buildings should be reused as much as possible, the public are entitled to live in a somewhat stable visual environment.”
Demolition is of course nothing new, the Victorians and those before them were extremely fond of laying waste to anything which stood in the way of progress. What marks out contemporary destruction for distinction however is rapidity of recurrence. Whereas before a building might last 100 years or more, today some buildings struggle to limp through a mere 25. Factor in the ever increasing lifespans of architects and the exponential rate of technological change in the future and a bumper crop of Rubble Club members is assured.
Non architects perhaps can’t relate to the emotions the loss of a building can arouse but Metzstein states: “It’s a bit like losing a baby, we don’t want to shame people. It’s a very touchy matter whether replacements are the superior or not, it’s subject to the vagaries of public opinion and the architect is never in charge, they are always at the behest of instructions from the client.”
First published in Prospect magazine, May 2009