Lia Forslund

Essay: Of and For Turner Contemporary

She wrapped her steel film, thermo sensitive jacket a little tighter and walked out into the storm. It seemed to her that even though life prolonged, the balance was forever gone. Her wrist had been telling her to eat for the past two hours, and she knew she would soon be sent notifications from the scanning board. With quick steps, she walked across the street to the Entomo joint, "A Beetle burger and a flip side cabbage juice," she said. "That's fifty pounds madam," the man behind the counter replied with a big smile. Bill was a hundred and twenty, and even though he was functioning, he had lost his ability to analyse or conclude. He was a synthetic biology sample from the factory in Westwood. They renewed the data in his cells every year, but something seemed to have gone missing.

In the ‘20s, the creative classes moved to Margate for the art scene and the low cost of the land. The average price of a flat in London had reached twenty million, and most people took the bid. With the new building generators, half a million pounds gave you a printed townhouse as long as you owned a piece of land. The coastlines of England quickly became sought-after. Most of the synthetic biotech companies placed their campuses along the rim of the North Sea, and soon more than 50,000 job opportunities arose. Like a giant integrated circuit, hundreds of thousands of printed townhouses were built. By investing in the Gallery, Margate had attracted the creative classes, and the area had risen like a phoenix, from a town in crisis to the heartland of the new biosynthetic design revolution.

In the winter of 2064, the waves exceeded The Turner Contemporary Museum, and the water surge caused the south-facing wall of the museum to cave in, which then led to the zinc roof collapsing in just a few hours. The water seized and shook the building more than anyone could have anticipated. The etched glass skin was gone, and all that was left were the steel beams, poking out from the metal decking.

The museum intendant stood on the beach staring with sober eyes at the battered skin of the museum. Before her were the ruins of Margate’s iconic landmark. The sight was so beautiful she had to download it and store it over and over again. People stopped and stared at the building with wide eyes, fascinated by the decay. Soon the beachfront was filled with people, with their eyelids opening and closing, storing views of the battered museum. “Nature’s aim for anything includes destruction and decay; scattered acid glass around the beach is just another sequence,” she thought and walked up to the back entrance with a few pieces of the façade in her hands. From the south side, the ruin presented itself to her, naked without its padding: the concrete frame revealed itself in all its beauty. The space that the water had created highlighted the building’s robust fundamentals. Once the storm had blown over, the concrete frames had survived, the six galleries and the north facing wall structure stood tall, like an essence of the past.

Turner Contemporary Museum was built during the digital revolution when most of the Creative Generation was born. After the building printers had been introduced, the government continued to underestimate the public's emotional attachment to architecture. Conversations between architects and the public were historically poor, but it was now nonexistent. Over the years the museum had become part of Margate’s legacy, nurturing old ideologies of the 2.0’s, a symbol of post-millennial customization and social engagement. The rhetoric behind the building was a creative frame, a hackable system; six galleries with enough flexibility for the activities to determine its existence much like the early days of the Ajax platforms.

The biosynthesis revolution had made the world into a projection, presenting an affordable copy of anything at anytime. Gone were the days of the user-generated. Most things could be found and downloaded easily, from any given year: one could remake memory, body parts or old museums. The retrievals servers had every surface of The Turner Contemporary Museum, every dot, every line, stored in computer simulation ready to be reproduced at any time. After the waves hit the museum, the robots quickly used retrospectives to download the building, but at this point, perfect architecture was the least important aspect.

The people of Margate knew that biosynthesis was a matter of recreating time; the robobuilders were rational and not programmed for emotional reactions. A cloned ghost building of Turner Contemporary, lacking the physicality of the past, would be raised within a month. Protests were raised. Margate did not want the robos to rebuild their iconic fort. No replica was needed, not in such a way that they could confuse the original with the new.

A petition was made to restore the building using fragments of the damaged skin. Scattered along the beach, the fragments of The Turner Contemporary Museum did not mean much but put back into its context they meant everything. As a ruin, the gallery was loaded, full of the physical evidence of destruction and real-time proof of what the sea had done to Margate and the community. Possessed by the idea of applying now to the present locals began to view the museum as part of nature, away from the reproduced. Surviving beyond its time, The Turner Contemporary Museum would find its natural position.

Debates in Margate were loud and finally the decision to restore the ruins of The Turner Contemporary Museum was made. Special proteins were developed as neutral material fillers to fit the damaged parts of the building together, like magma. The glue held the fragments while making sure that the building was breathing. The concrete frames were left bare, and soft transparent cellophane skin plates were wrapped around the edges, maintaining the rooms exactly as the sea left them.

The Turner Contemporary Museum was built during the millennial crisis. In the filthy age, people came to Margate because of its lack of pretension. The building became a creative legacy and brought a new generation of people to Margate. However, fifty years later, new design methods and synthetic technology had changed the balance of creativity. Nothing was left undone or uncontrolled; renewed data, new downloads and prints made the slightest touch of nature and time redundant. Decay had become a rare find in Margate.

The Turner Contemporary Museum had fought the sea for decades before the waves finally won. When the sea hit the museum, it also seemed to hit the people of Margate, awakening them from their slumber. For the second time, The Turner Contemporary Museum became a symbol of renewal, with its unwritten rules and empty frames. In the time of synthesis, the decision to keep the building unperfected became the beginning of a new era, reuniting people through what it once stood for. As the world projected itself as flawless, the people of Margate began to realise that something had gone missing.

As she walked down the beach, she smelled the air of loss and gazed at the sight of the unthinkable. The ruins of The Turner Contemporary Museum greeted her with inspiration. She knew that it was good for a building to take form and bad for it to burst, but in this case, the cracks meant something different.