Update: HoPe has closed, and the region hosting it has a new region holder and is being repurposed. SLurls to the build have therefore been removed from this article.
We first visited HoPe on the suggestion of Shawn Shakespeare at the start of April 2019. This is yet another region designed by the team of Fred Hamilton (frecoi), Alexa Maravilla (Spunknbrains) and Lotus Mastroianni, who have previously produced settings like Little Havana (with Sofie Janic – see: A trip to Havana, with a little Voodoo In My Blood), so the names alone were sufficient to further pique my curiosity on hearing about the region.
At the time of our first visit, HoPe had just opened, and was subject to some heavy traffic, so I opted to hold off blogging, as the region can take its toll on the viewer, and having a lot of avatars bouncing around at the same time certainly doesn’t help! Things are quieter now, so while the region can still present a performance hit for the viewer, I thought this week might be a good time to head back and take another tour.
During out initial visit, the About Land floater had a short description about nature reclaiming a city that has befallen a disaster. On my return mid-month, that had changed to a more succinct description: The World wouldn’t die without the Humankind. A bleak outlook perhaps, but one that accurately describes the setting.
The is a setting in which it is clear some form of widespread catastrophe came to pass; the shattered remains of an elevated roadway almost rings the empty remnants of a city in which the roads lie crumpled and ruined, and the buildings are little more than empty shells, some of them leaning against their neighbours as if seeking support as they stumble over the ripped and broken asphalt beneath them.
In one corner, a subway tunnel had been thrown up, a broken maw spanned by the ruin of a subway car. From this, and the wrecks of cars in the streets and on the roadways – including those of fire trucks -, together with the broken fuselage of an aeroplane, indicate whatever happened, came suddenly and without warning, bringing chaos in its wake.
Oddly, the one part of the city that appears to have suffered the least from the cataclysm is a building site off to the south, atop a low hill. Here stands the skeletal frame of what might have eventually been a set of pristine apartments offering a grand view out over the city below; or perhaps it was destined to be a shiny new office building or some new factory premises. Earth movers sit outside, as do free-standing banks of spotlights – still oddly working; and while the sky crane towers might be broken, and the safety fence stands rusted and leaning, with nature encroaching into the building itself, the site stands oddly pristine, like the bleached bones of a whale on a beach.
Throughout the setting are all the signs this was once a place of bustling human habitation. Faded store fronts line streets city, and graffiti sits on walls. Given the chaos that has ensued, some of the latter might actually now appear prescient: from one wall, the likeness of the late Heath Ledger’s Joker stares down at a street, a spray can of his laughing gas in one hand, while just around the corner, Harley Quinn, from her days in the Suicide Squad, swings her bat, both of them bringers of pandemonium.
While the initial catastrophe made have visited itself on the city without warning, nature has long since announced its determination to lay permanent claim to the neighbourhood. Open spaces now lie flooded, for example; might there have been a tsunami as well? Or has global warming subsequently led to a rising in sea level? You decide. Along the fractured streets, trees now add to the chaos, trunks further breaking the asphalt, roots eating into the foundations of building, adding to the canted appearance of some.
It is with the trees that we have perhaps the clearest indication of whatever happened here happened a long time ago: some have matured to such an extent that, should people ever return here, without a significant lumber operation, the elevated roadway can never be repaired. For now, however, the buildings and town houses are home only to bushes, shrubs and brambles, the raised sections of subway now little more than trellises for plant growth, the air heavy with the sounds of birds, the once proud rising form of the new building now an apartment house for (possibly now feral) cats.
All of this is evidence that, when all is said and done, nature has the power to survive, no matter what humans might do. But also, on some deeper level, perhaps, just perhaps, there is a message that humanity also has the power to survive: just catch the sound of a radio in the air, caught within the cacophony of bird song, or the child’s rubber duck sitting on a streetside bench.
Heavy going on the view it might be, but HoPe offers an ideal backdrop for photographers looking for something to frame their avatar studies, or who are looking for a more unusual landscape to capture.