Disaster Changes Everything

Of their Buildings of Disaster series, Constantin Boym writes: “Some of these buildings may have been prized architectural landmarks, other – nondescript anonymous structures. But disaster changes everything. The images of exploded buildings make a different, populist history of architecture, one based on people’s emotional involvement rather than on scholarly appreciation.” Boym Partners first conceived of the idea in 1997 as Souvenirs for the End of the Century.  The first edition was released in 1998 and it was controversial but well-received. When the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001, the Boym Partners re-released their World Trade Center miniature as a fundraiser and they later added The September 11th Memorial Set featuring the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Some of these buildings may have been prized architectural landmarks, other – nondescript anonymous structures. But disaster changes everything. The images of exploded buildings make a different, populist history of architecture, one based on people’s emotional involvement rather than on scholarly appreciation. –Constanin Boym

Production of the first edition of the Buildings of Disaster series ended at the century’s close but the events of September 11th prompted the Boyms to add to the collection miniatures memorializing other tragedies both past and recent such as Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War and the siege at Waco, Texas. In total, the Buildings of Disaster series includes twenty-five different disasters from all over the world.

Today, the Buildings of Disaster are no longer in production and the provocative miniatures can be found in numerous museum collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts in Lausanne.  

I have been trying to prove that these are objects of design, not art. Of course, the function of souvenir objects is “fuzzy”: they fulfill a need that is elusive and immaterial.

Constantin Boym

Constantin Boym b. 1955

Constantin Boym was born in Moscow, Russia in 1955. He graduated from Moscow Architectural Institute before attending the Domus Academy in Milan where he earned his Master’s Degree in Design in 1985. The following year Boym founded Boym Partners Inc in New York. From 1987 to 2000, Boym was a teacher and program coordinator for Parsons School of Design, New York and in 2010 he became Professor and Director of Graduate Design Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar.

Boym Partners has designed products for Alessi, Swatch and Flos as well as showrooms for Vitra and exhibition displays for museums. Their works have won numerous awards including the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2009, eight Annual Design Awards from ID Magazine and two Federal Design Achievement Awards. Boym has been the subject of two retrospectives and two books. Objects designed by Boym Partners can be found in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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