It’s a maw.
A scar, cut deep and right through the city with people swelling up, surrounding it like antibodies breaking down a disease. It’s only a few years older than me but it’s decrepit beyond it’s face. No one kept it safe, kept it fresh. It could be a hundred years old, or a thousand for all that it’s a ruin now.
Despite being located mere steps from Old Town with its constant coat of paint, its fixes and fixers, its preservers, Linnahall sits untouched and decaying a mere few meters away. It’s somehow striking and off-putting at the same time. Its brutalist core sprawling outwards over the bay but still it lays low, stairs compounding up the sides just high enough to see forever.
There used to be a reason that this concrete behemoth was located on prime real estate but now it lays as a slumbering giant whose back you can walk along. As if frozen in place by magic. It reminds me so much of Shadow of Colossus. Buried within its chest is a theater with a full hall for concerts that happened less than a decade ago. Their beauty and decadence, their color and vibrancy I have never seen. Instead each year I see the building grow more weathered, grow more tired with graffiti, damage, and wear. As if at one time it was colorful and alive, a beast whose movements were jittery and free but now, it has been stopped, slain for unknown reasons. Drained and defeated. Except it was never alive, of course.
Like most things built for the Olympics, Linnahall has outlived its original use and unlike many of the Olympic Villages or even most Olympic Stadiums its re-purposing was short and brutal so now it sits, a monument to the waste of the games. Derelict.
I imagine it as a place where people journey now. One’s own Stonehenge, confusing and mysterious. A variable holy site erected to our former glory and might. Of past power, unity, and even of division. Maybe that’s why all the lights at its base are smashed. So it can no longer be witness to its own destruction or make attempts to take its power back.
They talk about stripping it. They talk about replacement because there’s a level of damage you don’t get to come back from. There’s damage so through, a blade of time sunk through ones heart, that leaves no hope for resurrection remaining. Such things are only for the worthy, the utterly divine but this is a cursed site. This is a blight and a scar and I think that’s why I like this place.
I see myself here. I see my reflection inside of this structure. I see myself in this ruin, as a ruin.
The people come anyway, endlessly they come to this site. Long after its purpose has been served and after its power has dwindled to none they still mark it as a point of interest on a map. They take their pictures of a shell, a grotesque and garish monument of the past now a Polaroid of how humanity used to be. Come all, they say, gawk at the folly of humanity.
They still beg at its feet. They preserve this insanity. They worship the blight.
Consuming more power, destroying more brick under their feet. Hobbling up its ancient stais which we once were taxed with protecting. We stand still inside the hurricane of concrete, finding it impossible to move. In the face of this immutable, unkillable, unwinnable past.
We worship and hate it equal measure.
I see this building as a metaphor as all buildings as metaphor, as all people are metaphor, as all metaphor are metaphors. It’s the harm that USSR did to this country, how it is so hated and so useless but it is still here. Too expensive to remove, too important to erase, and yet somehow we cannot let go of the fragments of. A damaged legacy we want to forget but cannot bare to start the work of paving over. Too expensive and too difficult. A hazard of its damaged legacy which lays blocking its own path as much as it is the brick, the fire with which to build the future.
People come to stand at its feet worshiping the scars of the past.
I’m told inside there is a house of art. A ballroom. A beauty to behold. I scarcely believe it.
If there is some beautiful land inside of this monstrosity, something holy and real, it is not because of some innate wonder. Instead I am convinced it because that beauty was consumed instead of made. A thing swallowed whole by the walls, its belly swimming, brimming with culture soup.
I know it has my weigh point heart. I give to it my organs, set to be entombed. To let them lie inside this concrete prison. Kept safe, kept waiting. Turning ever back into the rocks and water that made up the concrete poured into its walls with no foundation to be found. Crafted into a haphazard nexus of wrong matter jumbled together. Trying to assert itself into a whole.
I think this building was made to crumble into the sea. A type of obsolescence not born wholly of neglect, but not entirely unplanned. The way that all bodies, no matter how much softness they receive, or how much care is laid on top of their delicate parts – all bodies return to the sea. Our soft flesh grows ever stiffer. Times takes everything from our flesh as it takes everything from this building too.
And if a human – no – if a building finds itself without these particularly softnesses, without this care, without this worship, where would it go before its time is done?
Too young to decay on its own, too hard to melt into the ether, too scarred to heal on its own.