Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Building of the Month: A-U-G House

A small, strange structure sits facing a stretch of the increasingly-clogged Tubman Boulevard in the middle of Congo Town. It has all the proper dimensions of an average Liberian domestic compound: one lot, one story, ringed by a concrete fence.

But this building is strikingly different than most of Monrovia’s homes, which are usually finished in mustard-and-mint painted concrete, with bars on the windows and capped by a cascade of zinc sheeting. But this single-level building is squared off and faced with dark, glossy tiles, sheets of imitation lapis lazuli, plastic glazing mirroring the traffic crawling past.

This is A-U-G House. But what is it? Is it still a home, a residence? Surely it was at some point. But has it now been glamorized, gleamed-up and cubed, for a commercial purpose?

What is A-U-G? Or, perhaps, who is AUG? Is it refer to August, this city's most torrential month? Is it short for Augustus? Are they initials? A member of an elite family starting with a G?

No one seems to know. At least, not when the compound is approached and inquiries are addressed to nearby loiterers. The goings-on behind this indigo edifice remain as baffling as the young man lounging prone in the dust between the house and the pavement in the picture below.

No matter. Architecturally, it is certain that this is a quite compact, dense example of the transformation of this once-sleepy seaside city, at one time characterized by wide-porched mansions shaded under plum trees, into the premier post-conflict, post-modern development capital. The forces acting on Monrovia make A-U-G house is not so much surprising as inevitable. This rapidly-changing city froths with steroidal injections of charity from Seattle and Washington and the high-fructose syrup of aid from Brussels and Beijing, as it is simultaneously imbued with the aesthetic sensibilities of Beirut, suburban Atlanta and inner-city New Jersey. The final station for the world's philanthropic freight train is one-story high, covered in a cheap, slick veneer shipped from Guangzhou and Dubai, intending too look enviably modern but really masking a crumbling but more honest structure underneath.

No comments:

Tweets by @moved2monrovia