Meditation & the pleasure of ruins

  Special Collections Exhibitions
  Unpacking Ruins: architecture from antiquity
  Wood - Palmyra & Baalbek
  Palaces & Baths
  Stuart - Athens v1-4
  Vitruvius & Fréart
  Palladio & Fréart
  Scamozzi & Serlio
  Palladio & Schenk
  Maggi & Ficoroni
  Major - Paestum
  Adam brothers
  Cameron & Russia
  Rome: decline & fall
  The New Zealander
  Meditation & the pleasure of ruins
  Towards a new architecture
  List of items


In his 1791 text where he speculated upon the decline of the empire through human greed and foolishness, Volney recalled visiting the Palmyra ruins. Foreshadowing Macaulay's allusion he wrote,

"Reflecting that if the places before me had once exhibited this animated picture: who, said I to myself, can assure me, that their present desolation will not one day be the lot of our own country? Who knows but that hereafter some traveller like myself will sit down upon the banks of the Seine, the Thames, or the Zuider Zee, where now, in the tumult of enjoyment, the heart and the eyes are two slow to take in the multitude of sensations: who knows but he will sit down solitary amid silent ruins, and weep a people inurned, and their greatness changed into an empty name?".
List of items

Rose Macaulay

Throughout the 20th century the fascination with ruins continued. In the latter part of her life Rose Macaulay, (great-niece of Thomas Babington Macaulay), spent four years studying and visiting ruins before writing this work. In it she gives a moving account of how people through the ages have reacted to ruins whether in grief, melancholy, triumph or pleasure.
List of items


Woodward's recent study spans ages and cultures. It relates how ruin and decay feature in the human imagination. The study recalls the disparate works from the likes of Goethe, Byron, Dickens, Macaulay, Lampedusa and Speer.
List of items




Woodward, Christopher.In ruins. Chatto & Windus, 2001.

Woodward, Christopher.
In ruins. Chatto & Windus, 2001.
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