It’s no coincidence that techno was born in the cavernous factories and hardcore warehouses of Berlin and Detroit. Techno is architecture-as-noise. It builds upon the repetition of its own beat, composing layers of sound as it reverberates off the built space surrounding it. The dense, metallic structure of Berghain in Berlin and the Packard Plant in Detroit—their sweeping, hollow forms, subdivided into different arenas of production by massive steel beams—are the natural habitat of this hallucogenic, trance-inducing music whose constituent parts are irreversibly blended together in its creation.
The logic of the buildings' original spatial distribution as a means of producing capital is completely rejected. Sharp right angles proliferate, and as beats reverberate from the poured concrete, bouncing off the bodies of clubgoers and dispersing in the clouds of smoke, music blends together with the night, both produced by and for the party. There is no single voice; instead, everything is compounded into a sticky space of un-production.
There is a beautiful irony in how this architectural style—originally dreamed up by Fordist fantasies of streamlined peak production—was repurposed as a petri dish of subcultural proliferation. Inside these brutal concrete giants, a new breed of music has persisted despite a dark moment of vast unemployment and recession. Had the industrial era persisted, had these buildings stayed populated by workers, had the rust belt never rusted, techno as we know it wouldn’t have transpired.
Zooming out from the dance floor, if we learn to view the imploded dreams of Fordism as the first step in the production of a new music genre produced between human and non-human agents, we can begin to approach cases of contemporary failure—particularly in the realm of the built environment—as a breeding ground for future hybrid ecologies; not simply as survivors of failure, but born from it.
Berghain in Berlin.
Berghain in Berlin.
The Packard Plant in Detroit, once a hotspot for underground parties, has been purchased by an investor who plans to convert the structure into an official nightclub.
Rendering of Packard Plant collaging together the building's present state of ruination with its original streamlined production.