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Demolish Me

The present-day lust for ruins is nothing new. In fact, it’s nearly as old as any ruins themselves. From a flattened Louvre to Percy Bysshe Shelley, a journey to the dawn of ruin porn.

A traveler pauses, perched on a boulder by a cool riverside to take in the view along the far bank. The scene that meets his gaze is that of a desolate and devastated London: a ravaged panorama of collapsed roofs and crumbling walls, with vegetation overgrowing amongst the ruins. Emerging high above the surrounding rubble St Paul’s cathedral still stands, but its iconic dome is caved-in like a crushed eggshell.

Dramatic scenes like this are familiar from any of the post-apocalyptic films appearing in cinemas over recent years. But this imagined vista is from Gustave Doré’s engraving “The New Zealander,” dating back to 1872.

These days, ruin porn is a thriving cultural phenomenon. It includes Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s haunting images of Detroit, and the city of Pripyat abandoned since the Chernobyl disaster. The Tate Britain in London currently has a whole exhibition devoted to ruin lust through the ages, from 18th-century drawings of Roman ruins to photography of the broken remnants of WWII. I’ve recently published a book on the science and technology needed to reconstruct civilization from scratch, and during the research... Continue Reading

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Apr 21
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