Industrial Ruins: Spaces, Aesthetics, and Materiality

Industrial Ruins: Spaces, Aesthetics, and Materiality

Industrial Ruins: Spaces, Aesthetics, and Materiality

Industrial Ruins: Spaces, Aesthetics, and Materiality

Synopsis

Standing in contrast to these aesthetically and socially regulated spaces are the neglected sites of industrial ruins, places on the margin which accommodate transgressive and playful activities. Providing a different aesthetic to the over-designed spaces of the city, ruins evoke an aesthetics of disorder, surprise and sensuality, offering ghostly glimpses into the past and a tactile encounter with space and materiality. Tim Edensor highlights the danger of destroying such evocative sites in order to build new developments. It is precisely their fragmentary nature and lack of fixed meaning that render ruins deeply meaningful. They blur boundaries between rural and urban, past and present and are intimately tied to memory, desire and a sense of place. Stunningly illustrated throughout, this book celebrates industrial ruins and reveals what they can tell us about ourselves and our past.

Excerpt

As a young boy on long summer visits to my grandparents’ cottage in Scotland, a particular ruin exerted a magnetic attraction for me. At the top of the steep, treelined country lane which led away from the cottage lay an area of extensive beech woodland. Nestling amidst the trees was a building known locally as the Haunted House, an imposing building designed in the Scottish baronial style that had lain derelict for years and was now the domain of owls, jackdaws and rabbits. It was crumbling and unstable, but I and my siblings ignored the barbed wire and the notices that warned of danger, and explored the remnants of parlour and dining hall that were now strewn with rubble. There was not much left of the building, few nooks and crannies or spaces that were not open to the sky, but at the back of the dwelling was a sumptuous wood with a collection of ornamental gateposts and a well; a wood that was the occasional venue for youths from the nearby village to carve their names on trees and drink cans of beer. The haunted house was part of a large estate that had been developed by a hugely wealthy rubber baron in the early years of the twentieth century. If you followed the road that skirted the wood, you came to the gatehouse, no modest lodge but itself a grand and exotic building which was the only inhabited part of the estate. Here lived an ancient woman who took it upon herself to maintain the estate to some degree and try to ensure that, as the signs warned, trespassers would indeed be prosecuted. With her dogs and a particularly vicious goose, she patrolled the estate in an archaic automobile, whistle at the ready to summon help and frighten intruders, especially children.

The wood adjacent to the haunted house was our way into the estate, and more importantly, to the gigantic mansion that lay in the middle of the policies. The rubber baron had gone bankrupt as his estate neared completion, and whilst the haunted house and gatehouse had been completed, the big house had not been finished inside and was bereft of plaster and furnishings, remaining thus for decades. It was this mansion that drew me towards it on most of those holiday days, despite the added fear of capture by the elderly crone or perhaps also partly because of that. A half-mile walk through the woods led to a steep decline through thick . . .

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