The Joy of Ruins

Really interesting video-essay on the Financial Times Arts page, prompted by an exhibit at the Tate gallery.  Peter Aspden talks about the lure of urban decay and the appeal of ruins.  He looks at lost London, post-Katrina New Orleans and Hitler's Atlantic Wall.

I was pleased to see Iain Sinclair, who says that ruins help us think about our own mortality.

It reminds me of a donated book I once put in the library collection, The Pleasure of Ruins, by Rose Macaulay.

We used to get teenagers coming in, asking about our file of clippings on Sunland Center, a hospital for the mentally and physically disabled in Tallahassee.  It stood empty for many years before it was finally torn down, and was rumored to be haunted.

In February, I had an inquiry about an establishment called the City Hotel.  Was it still standing?  I discovered that it had been built around 1828 and had been the "best tavern in town".  The Count de Castelnau stayed there, as well as the poet, Sidney Lanier.  But it burned down in 1886, and the state capitol building and grounds occupy its former place.


Steerforth said...

Someone made an interesting observation about some French people who were visiting Detroit to see the abandoned factories, commenting that it was a complete reversal of the tradition of visitors from the New World exploring the ruins of Europe.

I think modern ruins are far more poignant than old ones. We can look at the Colliseum and tell ourselves that it looks like that because it's a couple of thousand years old. But to see a factory and the homes that surrounded it - in our own lifetime - deserted and decaying, shows how transient our society is.

Brett said...

Here in Florida and across the "Sunbelt" we now have an even stranger phenomenon since the real estate crash: vast areas of new housing that remain unsold and uninhabited, and are falling into ruin. "Ghost towns" without ghosts.