1 April 1998

Detail from Egg Malta, by David Curtis 1998

On accretion and decay, a monologue w/ slides

first performed by David Curtis at the Arts Factory in Las Vegas, Nevada


The surface of many photographic prints is reflective, as is the glass which faces framed prints, so the viewer sees her reflection in the framed image. This condition persists and yet is mostly unintended. Slide projections avoid such co-presentation.

Building events catch our attention. Construction sites, occupied buildings, vacant buildings, implosions, they stay in our minds. We record their outline, on passing them our memory finds the shape a puzzle piece match.

Some places are full of memories, their ground is saturated, arriving there, moods change, waves of feelings envelope us.

A place like Enigma continues because it’s been drenched with human energy, the investment deep and clear.

I shiver when I arrive there, sure for personal reasons, but that’s the point, feelings reside there.

Building is an event which includes demolition, as life includes death.

Solar flares, quick events traveling star distances to light our eyes, print our memory.

Building lives lately hover between 0-100 years.

(define accretion)

(define decay)

The Cintas (uniform) building used to stand at the northeast corner of Wyoming and Commerce. I’ve driven past it thinking how it might be to occupy it.

When a building site is leveled, reduced to flat earth, our memory is contradicted.

The potential of what was is exchanged for (an illusion of) no history.

The Cintas building was no great thing, but its demolition is a waste, its material will be landfill for more flat earth, its corpse ripped apart and buried.

This eulogy or an apology, I’m sorry, there’s been an (erasure).

A familiar built (thing) is gone, remembered by some and caught in these slides.

(show Cintas slides)

How do we counter the perception that inner city downtown means danger, especially at night?

Perhaps there was some structural justification for the removal of the roof, the walls gave no signs of danger, wood remains a problem material for this climate.

(remember the Huntridge Theatre collapse)

It (wood) is used because it is familiar, rough framing requires no great skill.

So what’s motivating this site?

Property value, the empty ones seem to be offered at higher prices than the ones with older buildings on them.

I suspect a commercial developer would want the site for a convenience store.

When a (distant) money source inflicts him/herself on a neighborhood with no emotional investment, places get erased.

A commercial mindset is to assemble large vacant parcels to allow large vacant projects such as a mall. (a casino/hotel)

Quantity (of scale) increases the probability of profit.

Small projects aren’t less work, there is less money involved.

I’m not really interested in more Fremont Street Experiences.

One is enough. It’s a big enough gesture that could allow the small business to follow but it doesn’t (seem to) care if they do.

It remains a pretty porch over glitter gultch, it says: gamble here too.

I know my motivation(s).

I want a community of places downtown, close together that I can walk to from one to the next, gathering places, places to meet. I don’t want more 7-11s.

They assume I want to drive around all day which seemed like the thing to do when I was 16 most of us are no longer 16.

Why do we tolerate a built environment geared to an adolescent?

Developers have not provided great places.

They know they can build conveniences and they will make a profit.

What’s wrong with 7-11?

It’s convenient, it allows no motive for a pedestrian neighborhood because it feeds car culture , our desire to do better diminished with each carbonated pit stop beverage.

What is Egg Malta?

Malta, the island in the Mediterranean is where perhaps the oldest building happened.

Before these, are caves in France, subtracted forms which occurred not necessarily human-built. The forms on Malta are clover shaped in plan, two layers of stacked stones with rubble infill, or large boulders arranged in ovals. We don’t know (exactly) how they were roofed. (perhaps branches)

I refer to these forms the way Las Vegas builders copy classical details, veneering most things with a layer of historical cartoons.

I propose roof structures: Eggs, deformed spheres which transport, vehicles, plastic-ally applied to over-lapping multiples.

No copy can be perfect.

I’ve taken what was a bearing wall form (at Malta) and translated it into Modern vocabulary: point supported, free facade, free plan.

This site is intended to be the first thing that happens after our way of living no longer works.

How is this a gateway?

If there is no fence or wall to the city, there is no need for a gateway.

I(t) creates a new arrival view for the valley. To be seen from the air.

This new environment, a recreation of an abandoned parking facility occurs along the vehicular path to the city from the Southwest (L.A.).

When cars are abandoned this is where people will leave.

It is a landmark for flying objects.

First study for falling


How important is duration?

I can compose an installation in two hours, or two days, or six months.

Is it more or less valuable than say, architecture?

When does duration of planning reduce to improvisation?

Is improvisation architecture?

By contrast I offer my perfect day:

I wake up when I wake up

to the sun

I leisurely bathe or not

I eat a bowl of cereal

I sit in the sun for awhile

with the cat

I dress

I walk to a cafe

I run into a friend there

we have breakfast

or, I meet no one

I enjoy the food, peripheral conversation

then go for a walk

or find a computer, they are like payphones except they

all work

I do some work, or maybe just 5 minutes worth

I glance at a bulletin board for an evening event

to consider

I remember a sculpture half started and

5 minutes walk puts me with it

a lover calls to invite me to dinner

I take a nap for two hours

I wake up, do some sculpting

a client calls

we have a phone meeting it goes well


notice the absence of a few things:

  1. cars and really bad driver
  2. a commute
  3. an ulcer
  4. a boss

I digress into this dream because it lingers

on what to do with this time we have.

I return to this daily via pleasure and pain.

Dinner with a loved one versus 7-11.

Walking in a garden versus car wars.

As long as we tolerate living in suburbs and gated

communities, the energy left for the center will be displaced.

Please choose to remain near this center

Everyday I hope we will invent its new life.


My experience working with architects for the last nine

years has shown me that they mostly are so busy trying to

do the work that they avoid considering if they should do the work.

And considering motivation is my luxury.

I encourage you to know the property owners in this area

I hope on a person to person exchange we can continue

what a place like this has started.

Thank you for coming tonight.

© David Curtis 1998

Published by Pi-Des

ideas + verbs = magic

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