Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment

Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 1 of 9
Image © Romain Veillon

The hands hold the weight of the entire body, feeling the rough texture of unplastered mortar on its thin membrane. Even with the whole body stretched out against the wall, it still was not possible to see what was behind it. Sweat, in a mixture of adrenaline and heat, ran down his temples, indicating the movement for a final effort, a last impulse before the imminent fall that, for a few seconds, allowed him to overcome the last row. The field of vision was then opened to a fragmented, disconnected and oddly free world. An urban power that allowed itself to be strangled by the breath of tropical vegetation while being consumed by abandonment amidst an active and dynamic city.

Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 5 of 9Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 4 of 9Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 8 of 9Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 9 of 9Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - More Images+ 4

Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 8 of 9
Image © Romain Veillon

On the other side of this wall the peculiar atmosphere of contemporary ruin is established, a space in constant process that celebrates ephemerality and declares the strange beauty of the perishable. As a result of the accumulation of floors, walls, times and histories, the abandoned buildings present a new form that has its own sense and intelligibility, stimulating different sensations and subverting aesthetic and even functional conventions. Its structures are marked by the emptiness of a time that existed there, where implacable nature takes its place amidst the rubble that was once called home.

Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 7 of 9
Image © Romain Veillon

The effort to peek through the cracks, to jump over walls, as well as the photographic series and paintings that portray abandoned spaces, the fiction films that have forgotten and destroyed places as their backdrops, or the morbid curiosity we feel when seeing destroyed and abandoned buildings due to catastrophes and wars, are some signs that show the wonder that such structures provide us.

On the verge between strange and familiar, we look for traces in the abandonments that refer to old uses and appropriations, encouraging us to exercise our imagination and reconstruct possible scenes from the past. In an architectural complex shattered by time, as fragmented remains of a whole, its pieces of walls, windows, floors indicate something odd, but familiar, similar to the concept approached by historian and architectural critic Anthony Vidler, who understands “oddly familiar” as a metaphor of the human body in fragments, bringing out the horrifying side of the sublime, the fear of being deprived of physical rigor.

The aesthetics of abandonment, when questioning the integrity of matter, brings out our own fragility and ephemerality, reminding us of the right ending of everything, making people mirror and be surprised by their own abandonments. The abandoned rest, as a spectacle of finitude in the midst of urban daily life, can carry the very weight of existence, the emphasis of degradation in the real world. Far from the Platonic conception of beauty and eternity, the rubble embodies the formless, bringing us back to the existential abyss of the world in ruins.

Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 6 of 9
Image © Romain Veillon

According to Peter Eisenman, in the deformity of abandonment, "the beautiful in the ugly and the ugly in the beautiful" are simultaneously explored, resembling the image of the grotesque - a complex form of beauty that includes characteristics previously said to be ugly - the "idea of the misshapen and of the supposedly unnatural”. The grotesque that, from antiquity until today, has always been present in culture, although maintained in a kind of subclass of art for being in disharmony with the “metaphysics of the beautiful” built up to the Middle Ages and disseminated as artistic aesthetics from the Renaissance. The “artistic beauty” was associated with proportion, harmony, symmetry, form, perfection, goodness and truth. Abandoned spaces, in turn, can be defined by the denial of all these characteristics, in an aesthetic of opposition that depict decay, deformity, fragmentation and imperfection. However, despite being outside the traditional concepts of beauty, these spaces fascinate us with a grotesque beauty that invites us to face the real world.

Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment - Image 9 of 9
Image © Romain Veillon

From curiosity to fear, from fascination to repulsion, architectural defragmentation evokes a grotesque sense revealed to the subversion of norms, which is characterized by the undetermined and which calls into question five hundred years of architecture's dependence on the norm of beauty as a dominant aesthetic category.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Aesthetics, proudly presented by Vitrocsa the original minimalist windows since 1992. The aim of Vitrocsa is to merge the interior and exterior with creativity. Vitrocsa designed the original minimalist window systems, a unique range of solutions, dedicated to the frameless window boasting the narrowest sightline barriers in the world: “Manufactured in line with the renowned Swiss Made tradition for 30 years, our systems are the product of unrivaled expertise and a constant quest for innovation, enabling us to meet the most ambitious architectural visions.” Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our ArchDaily topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

Image gallery

See allShow less
About this author
Cite: Ghisleni, Camilla. "Fascination and Repulsion for the Aesthetics of Abandonment" [Fascínio e repulsa pela estética do abandono] 20 May 2022. ArchDaily. (Trans. Simões, Diogo) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/982274/fascination-and-repulsion-for-the-aesthetics-of-abandonment> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.