Thursday, 14 April 2011

Charred ruins

West pier ruins
Went to Brighton recently and was drawn to the charred ruins of the old pier. The pier frame is now a charcoaled link to the city’s past. But why is it so alluring? Architecture, of all the arts, plays a particular role in public life. It is ever-present in the daily lives of a city’s inhabitants. But it is unusual to see ruins and dilapidation as a feature of modern urbanism, as is the case in Brighton. The Renaissance saw the beginning of the integration of the past as a prominent and identity-sculpting feature of the present, resulting in the rise of archaeology and artefact collection. Anxious of change and charged with emotion, intuition and imagination, the Romantics contemplated the past and its urban traces. Ruins that are allowed to remain are deemed positive contributors to national identity and the perpetuation of myth that sustains it. It seems, then, that there must be something in the existence and allure of the Brighton peer ruin, bar the aura associated with the patina-tinted memories conjured up by structures from the past. What is it?