8:01 AM, 20,000 people, and 450 kilograms of explosives

Elimination of the Kaiserbau as a secular sacrifice

in Focaal
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  • 1 Utrecht University melanie.vanderhoorn@let.uu.nl
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The demolition of undesired buildings is often an ambiguous event: it can be seen as a brutal attack by some people, whereas others consider it necessary to construct something new. What needs to be accomplished is not a simple physical act, but principally the acceptance of disposal as something needed and wanted, rather than unnecessary wastage. Here resides the controversial and ambivalent character of many acts of disposal. Detonation, therefore, is a passage that acquires its relevance thanks to a careful orchestration of the event in which an unwanted piece of architecture is thrown into the public spotlight, proffering a glimpse of a multiplicity of possibilities, while simultaneously providing a remarkably powerful dual experience of the durability and ephemerality of man-made structures. The biography of the Kaiserbau in Troisdorf illustrates these issues: once a would-be mega-hotel between Köln and Bonn, the concrete structure was dynamited on 13 May 2001—a spectacle attended by no less than 20,000 people, despite the ungodly hour at which it took place.


Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology