"Ruins might well be thought as living organisms embodying notions of progress, forgetfulness and reclamation." - Dylan Trigg
"Often obscure in function and value, objects in ruin speak back to a material world in which things are contained by assigned place and normative meanings."- Tim Edensor
I guess my interest in ruins began as a teenager wandering back-and-forth along the narrow path of the then abandoned Highline in Manhattan. I had always enjoyed the serenity of its elevated platform but often questioned why I was almost always the only person up there, and if I was so often alone, then what would the fate of the Highline inevitably be? Of course, now I better understand that most people prefer not to trespass as a means of finding calm and know that the abandoned Highline would eventually land on the cover of every design magazine published in the year 2010. Who knew?
At any rate, over the past decade, my interest in abandonment has escalated from a curiosity to an over-intellectualized obsession and a documentation of post-industrial structures in their various stages of decay. I’ve come to realize that terms like “urban atrophy” and “ruin porn” are becoming commonplace and that the past, present and future of these structures have become lighting rods for dynamic conversation—from misuse to reuse. But, too often, our appreciation for the past is romanticized, our relationship with the present is ignored, and our solution for the future is removal or re-appropriation. Why do we routinely insist on normalizing our ruins? Where is our acceptance?
Despite this curious relationship between ruins and the market forces hoping to redefine their use (or eliminate them), the value of these spaces should not be limited to merely an acceptance of abandonment. In fact, by definition these spaces are not even abandoned; rather, they are dormant—rich in texture, life and a deviant sense of appreciation for the decorated surfaces, uneven floorboards and crystalline fields of broken glass that combine to create unexpectedly tranquil and unique spatial environments. Why are we so quick to discredit the integrity and uncertain future of these structures? Where is their security?
That said, I am not suggesting that we all migrate to the nearest derelict train station to start new lives of utopian bliss. That would be ridiculous. Rather, I am proposing that we question our relationships with these structures. Maybe their value is best served in decay—to challenge our aesthetic sensibilities and consumerist tendencies in the name of progress. Or maybe the true value of these spaces is simply in their ability to inspire our child-like enthusiasm for these wondrous facilities that now stand dormant, remnants of an endangered industrialized empire. Who really knows?
Either way, I do believe that we have more to learn from the subtext of
abandonment dormancy than we think, and hopefully these pictures are worth a few thousand words to that end.