Between the economic downturn and the vicissitudes of celebrity life, there’s been a lot of news about abandoned buildings lately, including lots of examples of creative reuses of urban landscapes. (The Foreclosed Backyards National Skate Park, anyone?)
Downturns hit the rich and famous, too. As a delightful side effect, we get to see the very beginnings of the archaeological process at work in a few now-abandoned cribs of powerful people. These houses provoke a rich set of feelings: voyeuristic pleasure, combined with the beauty of decay, and the poignancy of a fall from grace.
Take Mike Tyson’s mansion in the Firelands of northern Ohio. The TV is busted, the indoor pool green and scummy. For some reason I’m reminded of touring a medieval keep somewhere in Ireland – the same sense of exotic opulence and privilege, now emptied of its power and open to prying eyes. Tyson's lawyer made Illicit Ohio take down their full photoset, but there's lots of copies floating around the web.
Fergie’s former palatial manse in Berkshire (this is the non-singing Duchess (of York), and the English Berkshire) now lies in not-so-picturesque ruins, with some photos courtesy of the intrepid reporters at the Daily Mirror. What a hideous carpet.
The granddaddy of them all, and by far the most bizarre and breathtaking, is Michael Jackson’s former home at Neverland. Stop what you’re doing right now and spend some time looking at my friend Tunnelbug’s story and photos from the place. Astonishing how it is beautiful and totally insane at the same time.
It seems pretty unlikely that these structures will be preserved as well as the great celebrity cribs of the past – our modern mania for tearing down and rebuilding makes the chances pretty slim that Neverland will be the new Domus Aurea or Masada for some lucky archaeologist in 4009 CE. I guess we'll just ahve to imagine those future ruins into being.