SETH J. FRANTZMAN Sometimes you see things that are so incredibly stupid that it makes you wonder if you’ve misread it. So you go back and look again, and not only are you struck by how ignorant, moronic and stupid it is, but you realize you’ve actually discovered more moronism inside the idiocy. CNN’s absolutely insane “25 magnificent structures on the verge of extinction” is one of the most amazingly odd things a mass media publication has ever produced. How amazing is it?
Let’s start with the cover of the 25 structures, which features the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. This is the one that set people off because they think it is an anti-Israel agenda. But if that’s what made you take notice, you’ve simply got to look through the rest of this bestial collection to take it in. First of all, the title. “Extinction”. That’s a word connected to animals, not structures. Structures don’t go “extinct.” They don’t breed. They aren’t dinosaurs. There aren’t little families of Dome of the Rocks sitting around some where being hunted. They aren’t in a zoo. No. Structures are inanimate. They are manmade. They are in danger of collapse or being demolished or falling into ruin or being neglected. If there were 1,000 of them and now there is 1, they are in danger of disappearing.
Now lets look at the “old city of Jerusalem.” It is “in danger” not of going “extinct” but the article claims it is just in “danger” of being “in danger” because UNESCO says it is “in danger.” They claim that it is not being “preserved.” What does that mean. Of course part of the Old City’s “200 monuments” are being preserved. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been restored in recent decades due to unprecedented agreements among the churches that share it. The Temple Mount and Dome of Rock have all been in various forms of restoration since the 19th century. Historic structures throughout the old city, including synagogues, churches and mosques have all been repaired in recent years. This is also the case for the Old City Walls. They aren’t going “extinct,” they are at their highest state of repair since they were built in the 16th century. In fact there are few structures in the Old City that have become less stable in the last fifty years. At no time in the old City’s history was it probably in such a great state of protection than in 2015. CNN’s claims that Petra and particularly it’s Al Khazneh temple is being eroded away. Douglas Comer’s 2011 book on Petra and the issues relating to restoration addressed how modern science and study can decrease the impact people are having on the site. But like the Old City of Jerusalem, yes Petra suffers from tourism, but it isn’t that it is threatened with extinction. It isn’t collapsing. In the opposite, it is Jordan’s main tourist site and has legions of people studying it and seeking to preserve it in the best possible way. It was far more threatened in the 19th century than today. Next CNN comes to Teufelsberg NSA station in Berlin. This ugly piece of crap tower was a listening post during the Cold War. Now it looks like a kiosk that sells cheap beer. Well, it’s being vandalized. That’s unfortunate. So clean it. Then CNN really cooks up a beauty, the massive Royal Palace in Caserta, Italy. Restoration work was “slowed by bureaucracy”, but the photo shows a giant palace. Looks perfectly fine and seems like it would take a lot to make this behemoth extinct. It “only” has 1,200 rooms and is one of the largest palaces in Europe. It survived having the US fifth army camp inside it in the Second World War. It seems it can survive the slow-moving bloated Italian bureaucracy a little longer.
Next we get to the 500 “gas holders” in England, giant steel eye-sores that look like big pieces of crap littering a post-apocalyptic world. So, the UK is dismantling them and selling land to “housebuilders.” But there are 500 of these worthless wire-mangled beasts, who needs so many. Preserve one. Burn the rest. Like the 500 balls of wire, the 40,000 “gas lamps” in Berlin that CNN included are not “going extinct.” There are 40,000 of them. So put new types of lights in them, that’s fine, and preserve them. But call me when there are 100 left…not 40,000. If the balls of wire aren’t making you worried, be prepared to cry over the Melnikov house in Moscow. A tubular white piece of swiss cheese, it has “cracks” in it because someone built a parking lot nearby. Not only is it not “magnificent” as the series is dubbed, it is downright boring. But fine, throw some paint on those cracks and fix it. The Nakagin tower in Japan is one of several “brutalist” structures supposedly threatened with extinction. This horrible idea was built in 1972 and is basically uninhabited. It consists of small “cells” that were ill-conceived for human habitation. It’s not that its going extinct, it should never have been built. The amazing thing about eye-sores like this is that some architect bilked the public into building something ugly and then everyone claims that it is a shame not to “preserve” something that no one wanted.
Another brutalist nightmare also not in danger of extinction, but nevertheless on the list, is the ugly Preston bus station in Lancashire in the UK. A horrible concrete nightmare built in 1969, it was saved from a deserved demolition in 2013 and is now going to be a “youth center.” So it’s not going extinct, in fact it is thriving. But it should have been blown up. The four kilometer stretch of buildings in Liverpool known as “mercantile city” are also supposedly “going extinct.” How is that exactly. The photos show them standing strong. Like with Jerusalem, their “in danger” status owes itself to UNESCO which seeks to politisize them by saying they are “in danger” from a new skyscraper. They aren’t “going extinct,” its just the UNESCO doesn’t want a new building near them.
Union Terminal Cincinnati is listed as in danger as well, which it apparently is only because it needs to find a use. A former station, it became a mall and is now abandoned. “Old buildings in Beirut” are listed as in danger, but most of them aren’t that old. Supposedly only 350 remain. The “traditional townhouses” in Kyoto are also in an unclear state of “extinction.” Built in the 17th century they are being preserved, so they aren’t going extinct, but being kept up. The “house of wonders” in Zanzibar is similarly unclearly threatened. Ok, so a tiny bit of it fell down in 2012, but the rest of it is a museum. “Work needs to be done to preserve its structural integrity.” It was built in 1883. Is this really a unique building? It seems fine in pictures.
Another London eyesore, almost as bad as the giant wire balls of junk, is the Battersea Power Station. Yes, it’s kind of cool, but there are lots of these old power stations. However the fact is that the developers, including legendary architect Frank Gehry have been brought in to do a development around the structure and preserve it. So it’s not “going extinct,” it has a new lease on life. Potosi in Bolivia is also supposedly in danger of “extinction.” But Potosi is a whole city. The article claims the nearby mountain, mined for iron ore, is actually collapsing. “The summit already started to crumble.” So which is it, the mountain or the city is in danger? Is the mountain a “magnificent structure”? Is it going “extinct”? Don’t mountains crumble sometimes. I mean, that’s a shame, but it’s not extinct. There are other mountains. Like the mountains, Picasso’s awful and ugly art that adorn some concrete buildings in the shape of lard in Oslo are an eyesore. Picasso made some 50,000 pieces of art. You could find a Picasso by tripping over it to get to a toilet in Europe. Who cares what happens to this one piece of artwork? Another terrible piece of junk that the article claims is at risk is a public housing estate, in truth a ghetto of brutalist awfulness, built in the 1960s. It should be extinct, it is a monstrosity of apartments, nothing good about it. It looks like a prison and probably felt like one to the working class people housed there.
BUT WAIT…it get’s better. Did you think a giant housing estate, of which there are many other examples, was truly in danger?
To top it off a public building built in 1982 in Portland in the US. Some politicians apparently got it listed on a “historic register” despite that being totally inappropriate. It was badly constructed and needs millions to keep it structurally sound. There is nothing endangered about it. There are lots of other ugly buildings like this. The politicians who preserved it should be extinct along with the building. Djingarebyer mosque in Timbukto is one of the only structures actually in danger, from Islamist extremists. Pompeii may also be eroding, but like some of the structures above, its supposed “disappearing” status was declared by UNESCO mostly to prompt the Italian government to do more to save it. HasanKeyf in Turkey, which the government plans to flood, is also actually in danger.