We start with a hole of a determinate volume. The origin of the hole is irrelevant. Its form is irrelevant. What matters is that it exists and must be preserved. The city’s planning commission, responsible for safeguarding the hole, creates a mechanism, called a Transfer of Memorial Rights, to transfer the hole to other areas within the city, if needed.
A Transfer of Memorial Rights occurs when development pressures over a particular lot—called the Sending Lot (in this case, the lot where the hole is located)—justifies transferring a memorial to another lot within municipal boundaries, called the Receiving Lot; in other words, when property values and zoning regulations make the Sending Lot developable and profitable to the developer, despite the cost of moving the memorial (or in this case, the hole) elsewhere.
The Receiving Lot must be located within the same administrative division (municipality, borough, township, etc.). The developer of the Sending Lot is responsible for procuring the Receiving Lot, which cannot be previously owned by the developer. Once the lot is secured, the developer is responsible for creating a hole, called the Receiving Hole, whose volume is equal to that of the Sending Hole. The volume of the Sending and Receiving Holes should be measured downwards from a horizontal plane drawn at street-level. Again, the form is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that the Hole exists and must be preserved.
The owner of the Sending Lot now develops the Sending Lot, and may develop the Receiving Lot only if another Receiving Lot, to which the hole may be transferred, is secured. In the event that the volume of the Receiving Hole cannot reach the volume of the Sending Hole, the Receiving Hole may be split between two non-adjacent lots, under the provision that each sub-hole increases its volume by 50%. This procedure may be repeated as many times as necessary. Every new hole must occupy at least 50% of the Receiving Lot and must be visible to the public at street-level. No uses are permitted in the Receiving Lot or Hole.
Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad inferos. (Whoever's is the soil, it is theirs all the way to Hell.)
Acts of remembrance, memorials, tombstones, tokens, or rituals, often rely on a positive addition of labor and matter to make themselves present. We transfer the burden of memory to objects so that they may be ignored, destroyed, or even worse, appreciated. We build monuments in order to forget what they stand for. When Abraham enters Hebron after his wife’s death, the Hittites—well aware of his reputation—offer him a burial site for free, yet Abraham insists on paying for the land: “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; sell me some property among you...that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” (Genesis 23:4). Read one way, he essentially says: let me own the land where the memory of my wife will fade, let me own this memory as I would own my land—unsullied by debt. Yet he also seems to suggest that in order to properly occupy a place that is not your own, a certain due is owed, a pecuniary transaction that establishes a fundamental right to possess and preserve that which is secure beyond the kindness of a gift. It is not memory that needs to be preserved, it is our willingness to pay for it that matters.
The history of landmark preservation in the United States is a history of such transactions. Transfer of development rights, or TDRs, were originally created in New York to preserve historic sites in a city that was, by virtue of its tendency to maximize built area, constantly trying to bury itself. The mechanism was simple: the owner of a landmark would sell unbuilt development rights—say, the right to build a 50-story office tower in lieu of an old church—and the buyer of these rights would transfer the unbuilt floor area from the landmarked site to another, non-landmarked, lot. The landmark would be preserved, the buyer-developer would add floors (i.e. expected returns) to his development, and the city would receive a tax revenue from a previously non taxable property. The mechanism enabled the preservation of buildings that would otherwise have been profitable to replace but, more importantly, it gave developers the ability to transfer development potential from sites of lower desirability to areas which could yield the highest returns.
A Hole is not interested in any of this. Its purpose is to preserve holes. The first hole may be the product of climate change, terrorism, a failed development, etc. The point is that we should approach it, from the outset, as an abstraction—without any concern for site, identity, landmarking, or profit. A Hole is not a monument. It represents nothing. As an absence, it can only survive by not becoming present. It must therefore become a mechanism, coded into our cities’ futures. How the hole eventually splits, or bores into the earth, or spreads across the land—how it manages to disappear even—are all questions for future developers. What the hole offers today is complete discouragement. In this respect, it is the opposite of an amenity. It posits a return to uselessness, without abandonment.
The hole is a deferred index for gentrification as well: it disappears only when its neighborhood has achieved a high degree of desirability or speculation. If a neighborhood receives a hole, it is, in all likelihood, far from being gentrified. Yet it also signals areas within the same district where land is comparatively cheap and therefore gentrifiable. In this sense, it might even become a trigger for development, despite its opposition to it. It might also encourage a single developer to keep accumulating land and digging smaller holes, which may, in time, be topped by condos. A Hole simply reveals the antics to which real estate must recur in order to keep filling the void which fuels it.