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Learning from Decay

Essays on the Aesthetics of Architectural Dereliction and Its Consumption

Max Ryynänen and Zoltan Somhegyi

Architectural decay as well as the reasons, effects, appearance and representation of ruination have always been important sources of understanding the state of our culture. The essays in this co-written book offer broad perspectives on the potential of ruins, on the use and appropriation of derelict architecture and on the aesthetics and also touristification of places by analysing a variety of phenomena in the range from classical to fake ruins, from historic city centres to hot dog stands, from debris to theme parks. The survey travels from Tallin through Venice and Istanbul to Beirut, discussing among others actual spaces, allegorical monuments and nostalgic aestheticisations of the past in high and popular culture, thus showing numerous inspiring opportunities of learning from decay.

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Layers of the Past: On the Potential of Ruins


Zoltán Somhegyi

Layers of the Past: On the Potential of Ruins

Abstract: Though it might be surprising to use the word “potential” with regard to ruins, as it is examined in this essay, ruins do have a certain potential. This is however not practical but aesthetic. The encountering of the physical and temporal layeredness of the original edifice through the reflection of the gradual ruination can help us in understanding our present through the analyses of our relationship to the past.

Keywords: ruins, rubble, temporal segments, absence, function

There are sites and cities where the historical “layeredness” of the place is particularly visible, what’s more, even physically tangible for the curious observers. The various temporal shifts can be manifested and sensed in and through the multiple physical and architectural layers that one perceives in the dense urban pattern, for example, in the re-built and over-built segments of towns. The well-known and often-reproduced views from Rome, for example, where the ancient temples stand next to Baroque, modern and contemporary edifices, can be a good example for this, just like many areas of Istanbul, where one can sense and enjoy the parallel presence of the three cities, Byzantium, Constantinople and the modern Istanbul. These sights are popular in great deal right due to their ability of picturesquely showing the various historical layers through the still-standing buildings, through which one can enjoy the appearance of a certain historical continuity of the place’s classical and...

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