Lisa Blackmore: Downward Spiral: El Helicoide's Descent from Mall to Prison

Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 12:00 pm


Hailed in the 1950s as a beacon of Latin America’s modernist architecture, Venezuela’s El Helicoide is a futuristic fantasy gone sour. At its conception, this drive-through shopping center embodied a narrative of progress, fueled by soaring oil prices, consumerism, and car culture. Yet a very different story unfolded on its spiral ramps. Caught in the transition from military dictatorship to democratic rule, El Helicoide became a site of abandonment, encircled by slums, and repurposed in 1979 as an emergency shelter for flood victims. Since 1985, it has been a headquarters for national intelligence and security police agencies, and an infamous prison. Combining archival documents, critical analysis, literary texts, and visual commentary, Downward Spiral traces the turbulent history of this living ruin and reveals the dystopic side of urban modernity.

Lisa Blackmore has a PhD in Latin American Cultural Studies from the University of London (2011). She recently published Spectacular Modernity: Dictatorship, Space, and Visuality in Venezuela, 1948-1958 (2017) and has published widely in academic journals. She was Postdoctoral Researcher on the project Modernity and the Landscape in Latin America at Universität Zürich from 2014 to 2017. She is Lecturer in Art History and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Essex.

Lunch provided. Free and open to the public.

216 Burr Hall