In unicum

In unicum

Roland Roos repairs broken, displaced, or damaged things in public space:

Each repair is intended to restore a particular detail to its pre-damaged state. Before and after the repair a photograph is taken of the unsolicited assignment. The photo taken before the repair is the only existing document of the damaged objects and thus becomes a unicum. All of these unicum photos are on sale for 320CHF (~$304 USD) each which is the average amount of money that is spent for one repair (materials and labor).

It’s interesting when people talk about what they miss about New York City. I don’t mean it’s interesting what people talk about — 24-hour public transportation, Automats, serendipity, the view from the Brooklyn Bridge — these are enviable things. So much so that New Yorkers miss them when we too are traveling. What’s interesting is when people talk about them. Sit for a bit with an ex-New Yorker and memories come back of the unexpected often in the midst of the broken or damaged. One-off states in need of attention and repair. Unicum.

See also:
Unica, for the curious, are defined in detail

One such friend’s comment has stayed with me each time I think about the city’s more or less crusted beauty. “This is what I miss,” he waved as we sat squeezed in some nondescript outdoor cafe mid-August, a balcony above dripping air-conditioning runoff next to us, firetrucks honking by, no service, and smokers all around, free with American Spirits, sidewalks then small democracies still. This state in a state of pre-repair.

The moment, clearly broken if it were to be scripted in, but a unicum all its own, never to be repeated. And these moments — be they broken, baffling, damaged, imperfect, pre-repair, and flustering — are the ones we remember. And as people who make things for other people, we get the chance to remember that sometimes the broken make it all seem worthwhile, even long after the repairs smooth over the rough edges.