Monday, December 28, 2009

Steampunk Ruins

The ironworks in Völklingen (Germany) were closed in 1986 and became later a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The gigantic blast furnaces and Cowper stoves are rusting and became slowly covered by vegetation.

A real impressive site.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

After Mankind

Two nice covers of the U.S. science fiction magazine Fantastic Universe showing robots in typical human poses. To leave it clear that they are the heirs of mankind, who has not survived, the scenery is decorated with some human ruins.

Fantastic Universe (Dec. 1957)

Fantastic Universe (Aug. 1958)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Easy Booty

Maybe that today the most frequent connotation of ruins is that of misery and destruction. That’s how we see ruins nearly every day in the news and therefore these significations are much more common than any romantic or weird glorifications. Nevertheless there may be another meaning which is probably even older and that’s the banal view of ruins as easy booty.

Sure anybody is dreaming of hidden treasures, old weapons or precious statues, but reality is usually much more trivial. Since the beginning of civilization, meaning since the first ruins in history, these served above all as a resource of construction material. Probably already the Neanderthal men examined abandoned camps for timber, bones or useful stones.

Before mankind reached the modern western state of welfare there was no space for romantic reflections, ruins had to serve a certain purpose, they were used as quarries, as an easy resource of ready hewn stone.

Impressive ruins like the Heidelberg Castle were used over many years by the townsfolk to build their new houses. But the castle in Heidelberg was popular enough that the process was stopped already in 1800.

Many castles, monasteries, city walls, roman temples and aqueducts all over the world were not so lucky and disappeared in many completely from the map. Some where only saved by their huge amount of stones, so that there is still left something.

The gigantic Roman Colosseum served over centuries as a quarry for the new palaces in Rome. Maybe it would have been reduced to nothing with the faster construction in the 19th century. Fortunately already in 1749 the Pope declared it a sacred place by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there.

The famous Cluny Abbey for example, the largest church of Christendom until the construction of St. Peter in Rome, was sold as a quarry during the French Revolution and disappeared almost completely in some few years.

In older times there were no romantic feelings regarding ruins. Especially if construction material was needed urgently it was taken from what was near at hand regardless of any sentimentality. Nice examples could be seen in Greece, where Crusaders, Turks and Venetians constructed their fortifications with the remains of Greek temples.

Even the most impressive ruins of mankind like the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Wall of China were used over centuries as quarries.

The Pyramids of Giza were once covered by casing stones that formed a smooth surface. Some of the casing stones that once covered the whole structure can still be seen at the top, probably because they were there out of reach. But the most were used to build mosques or the immense Citadel of Cairo.

Despite being the tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site parts of the Great Wall of China are still used as a resource of construction material. For example the magnificent wall surrounding Beijing was torn down during the Cultural Revolution, the stones were used for newer buildings.

Sure that there may be ruins hiding treasures, housing memories or representing a glorious past, but that’s all luxury. Normally ruins are simple resources of stones. In the aftermath of World War II when great parts of Germany were destroyed many women were conscripted as so called "rubble women" (Trümmerfrauen) to clean the cities of all the debris. Another important task was to convert as much as possible of the debris into acceptable bricks.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The New Art of Making Ruins

Fascinating documentary about the decay of Havana. There are many ruins in Havana, some are still inhabited. The documentary shows incredible scenes and also interesting interviews of people living there, who are explaining their situation with a certain kind of grim humour, which may be the only way to survive under circumstances like this.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Post Apocalytic Companions

Probably everybody, who saw in the film "I Am Legend" (2007) Will Smith walking though New York with his German Shepherd "Sam" as his last and only friend, was reminded of a very similar scene in the "The Road Warrior" (1981) with Mel Gibson.

Without any doubt the image of a man and his dog is already an icon and has older role models:

Dogs are good companions faithful and most loyal to their masters, so that they are even called sometimes "the oldest friend of man". Maybe here’s the root for their popularity in post apocalyptic movies. If they are the oldest friends maybe they should also be the last ones.

Two more examples of dogs in post apocalyptic movies :

A Boy and His Dog (1975) - maybe this was the inspiration for Mad Max.

Downstream (maybe next year)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baroque Decay in Naples

I don’t know another city like Naples where the baroque passion for the vanitas the symbol of the futility of live and human efforts is so present, it finds its correlation in the whole city which seems to fall apart.

The skull the main symbol of the vanitas can be found on many old buildings but also as modern graffiti.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fashion and Decay

In the Vogue Italy appeared in June 2007 this editorial by the famous fashion photographer Steven Meisel (maybe my favourite).

It shows different models in the scenery of abandoned and derelict industrial architecture. Meisel likes this morbid atmosphere. To me he seems sometimes as a modern version of Thomas Cole, a late romantic ruin lover.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Past and Present

The Past (1838)

The Present (1838)

The English-American artist Thomas Cole (1801-1848) confronts here two paintings showing the same castle in different epochs, first in the middle ages during it’s best time, second today as a ruin. In the painting of the actual castle this is allegorically illuminated by the evening sun. Ruin – evening – death.
These very, very romantic paintings are illustrating the romantic glorification of ruins, death and decay.

Maybe it should be mentioned that neither the old castle nor the actual one are depictions of a real castle, they are pure fantasy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

One small stone, one giant leap in ruin history

Probably it’s neither a nice photo nor an impressive ruin, nevertheless it is one of the most important buildings in the history of ruins.

It is the so called Ponte Ruinante (the ruined bridge) part of the Palazzo Barberini in Rome and probably designed by the Italian artist and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). The currently derelict bridge was already by Bernini constructed as a ruin with one of the vault stones looking as it was coming down. Bernini tried to imitate the ancient Roman ruins. As far as I know the Ponte Ruinante is maybe the first artificial ruin, the first folly ruin.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Rise of Post-Apocalyptic Movies

Interesting commentary by the BBC about the new rise of post-apocalyptic movies like Terminator, 9, The Book of Eli, The Road and so on.

"Hollywood is about to launch a new wave of big-budget apocalyptic spectacles, depicting a world where human life has been all but destroyed. From September, big name stars aided by impressive special effects will be bringing competing post-cataclysmic visions to cinemas. Many think this new batch of disaster films has been triggered by topical anxieties."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Al-Qaeda Fantasy

When I saw these paintings by Boris Vallejo for the first time, I couldn’t avoid thinking of the 9/11. Maybe old Osama and the guys in Afghanistan were great fans of Boris Vallejo. But in the end I don’t think so. The big similarity derives from the fact that the best apocalypse has still to happen in New York.

Vallejo did the paintings in 1997 to illustrate a text by Philip José Farmer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Colosseum Ruins for Dallas

Not long ago I stumbled upon this interesting project called CO-OP CANYON by the architecture firm Standard. It was planned as a sustainable, zero carbon, no waste water community of modern, terraced urban dwelling house in Dallas.

This architects claimed that they draw their inspirations from the villages of the Anasazi Indians. But I recognize only the Roman Colosseum. Even better as the original this quotation of a ruin is covered with plants.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Last Boy on Earth

Kamandi is a comic book character. The DC Comics series was published from 1972 to 1978. Kamandi lives on a on a post-apocalyptic Earth where a disaster had wiped out civilization and a great part of the human population. Only some few communities survived in underground bunkers.

The series is neither well drawn nor is the story very interesting. Kamandi looks like many of the usual superheroes and meets similar looking enemies.

To me the most interesting thing of the whole series is the cover of the first issue showing the usual rests of Lady Liberty.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Downstream: Post Apocalyptic Movie

Downstream is a new post apocalyptic movie announced for 2009. The oil resources has collapsed, great parts of the female population died and food is running short…

Sounds like a new version of the good old Mad Max story a little more western style. Till Today there is only a small website and a trailer on Youtube.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

World War Battlefield

In the French Vosges, a mountain range near the German border, there can be found a lot of remnants from World War I. One of the most cruel and futile battles raged around a hill called "Hartmannsweilerkopf".

The once devastated landscape has long recovered but still there are many bunkers, dugouts and trenches.

Some zones which saw the hardest fighting and soaked the most blood are now transformed into memorials. Without any doubt that’s a good idea, but what I cannot understand, why they put there white crosses for they fallen French and black ones for the Germans. I don’t hope that they intend the crosses to proceed with that senseless fighting.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Winter Ruins

The French artist Jules Laurens (1825-1901) accompanied a French diplomat on his voyage to Turkey and Persia (1846-48) where he made thousand sketches and drawings. Some he used later as patterns for oil paintings.

I find especially these two paintings impressive. They tell of a great past, of times that have passed by long ago. I don’t know if Laurens invented the snow but it is intensifying the effect enormously.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. the ruins of Chernobyl

Here some pictures of another shooter game. "S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl". It’s made by the Ukrainian developer GSC Game World and published in 2007.

The background is borrowed from Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker and the graphics are influenced by the abandoned city of Prypiat.

At least it’s another example for how popular ruins are among video gamers.

More information about the game (in Spanish) and nice screenhots can be found there.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exotic Ruins by Catherwood

Frederick Catherwood (1799–1854) was an English artist, architect and explorer. Like many who were interested in old ruins Catherwood began with trips to Northern Africa and the Near East, but he became really famous for his impressive detailed drawings of the ruins of the Maya civilization.

To my mind Catherwood was the first European artist who focused on the exotic aspect of ruins. They are no classical or gothic, pre modern western architecture. They are strange, alien. It fits, that they were found in the jungle, covered with earth and plants.

Here I think is the big influence of Catherwood, reaching till modern day films like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Tomb Raider".