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Beauty in Ruins?

Part 2 Dissertation 2014
Chloe van Grieken
University of Strathclyde | UK
At present, the world’s diverse and vibrant cities house an overwhelming number of public spaces and buildings of immense cultural importance, the destruction of which can be highly detrimental to a cultural group.

Throughout history, times of conflict, and the ruined landscapes that are produced as a result, have been highly revealing of the capabilities of humankind. Warfare, totalitarian regimes and their associated destruction highlight the extremes of human nature; the darkest depths of cruel intentions are unmasked, and the extreme bravery and resilience that can arise as a result of exposure to such adversity are revealed.

To be human is to assume that there is purpose and meaning in living, and the urge to express this meaning through cultural media such as literature, art and architecture is what distinguishes humankind from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Human interventions in the natural environment – such as architecture – are culturally expressive and have been shaped by innovations in technology. The results generate settlements, the artefacts of everyday life, and the spaces in which to gather with others. The act of destroying these things, or un-building them, potentially has the power to alter memories, weaken ideologies and cultural forms, and alter the human condition.

Humans have long had a creative and destructive relationship with our planet, in which technological innovation has allowed our species to alter and inhabit our environments in ever-changing ways. More recently, this has resulted in the increasing prominence of the “virtual world”, which has implications for all forms of social interaction and gathering. This dissertation aims to uncover the historical significance of destruction of culturally important places in order to assess whether the act of their destruction will be as meaningful in future, if the nature of these “places” is set to change as a result of technological and cultural evolution.

Chloe van Grieken

Mr Michael Angus
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