Inverted House – stories
There is a guy next to my house who’s been building for the last 13 years and he’s still going. Half of the hill is now missing and the place he’s ‘building’ still doesn’t have windows. Although the place is the epitome of ugliness, it is also a kind of dream that he might have had about building without end, without purpose. So, the frequently used phrase ‘build while you can’ – which sees buildings shoot up before certain laws are in place – reminds us of the beginning of a community, a starting point for something, but also the end of a community. It’s the act or process of building which is in itself attractive or ‘productive’, and therefore addictive.
From a recent past
Similar things are happening all over the coast and inland. It is a type of growth that reminds me of something that happened during the 90’s on the side of the cathedral in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. The pile of items initially began as a rubbish site to which locals brought unwanted things. During the war a lot of people moved and many were exiled and displaced. It seemed as if the people that stayed in the Old Town needed to change their interiors, strip away and forget previous identities, reinvent themselves and start anew. Hotels, post offices, cinemas and banks were stripped to their bare walls and a pile of items that initially began as a rubbish site began to grow next to the cathedral.
Some were replacing things with new items bought in the tax-free paradise of Neum, where weekly trips were made to buy food and cigarettes amongst other things. After a period of time the pile became more and more organised. Chairs were placed at one end, tables at the other, clothes on hangers and hats carefully aligned on the back wall. Ironically, the rubbish site became known to the locals as IKEA. People would come and choose things during their daily evening walks. The site turned from an undesirable rubbish tip into a constructive place – a symbol of transition and reconstruction. It became a place through which one was able to momentarily replace or exchange memorabilia from a recent past.
I fell asleep on the floor of somebody’s office space a couple of years ago. When I woke up I noticed the colour of the carpet; dark turquoise. It reminded me of far away places, long beaches on the islands in the middle of tropical seas. While I was asleep they built another wall in the corridor. It was now more narrow and long like a tunnel. I walked out of the room, down the corridor and into the entrance area of the building. The guy on the reception desk was fast asleep. The building opposite had had another level built on to it. It was now seven stories high and still shooting up. It all happened in a couple of hours while I was asleep.
People build for different reasons and have different attitudes towards the building process itself. Some time ago I talked to a friend whose family home is in an area just outside the city that was often subjected to air strikes. His four brothers and three sisters, who all live in different countries around the world, would come together each time the house was destroyed in an air strike to rebuild it from scratch. In the end, they had to rebuild their house four times. He spoke of his attitude changing each time they had to do so. His siblings lived so far apart from each other that they were hardly ever in one place at the same time, so it was nice to have a chance for the whole family to be together in one place. In terms of the house itself – each time it was rebuilt they thought it became increasingly modern.
Although there were different international funding schemes supporting rebuilding, the houses were hardly ever completed. When the funding ran out, people often tried to finish the building themselves but would soon abandon the idea due to a lack of economic and logistical support. When driving from one area of the country to the other, one sees a whole trail of houses that are half-built; sometimes only one story high, no plaster, no windows, only raw red brick. Among these makeshift houses a fully completed house would be out of place.