the whole catalogue of lyrical decay


We know vanished civilizations by the biggest, brawniest, and most durable buildings they leave behind: Roman stadiums, Egyptian temples, medieval cathedrals, Renaissance châteaux. The last 200 years have bequeathed to us an ungainly legacy of industry, and what we make of that inheritance helps define who we are. At the peak of the machine age, factories were emblems of human might, and artists like Charles Sheeler hymned their majesty and ruthless purpose. Later, the decline of manufacturing in the West gave us a new Gothic landscape, and we have come to savor the poetics of abandonment: silent smokestacks, vaulted basilicas with missing windows, massive brick fortresses, looming silos, weed-mossed trolley tracks, great steel trusses furred with rust. At the same time, the word industrial has been trivialized into an aesthetic label, shorthand for restaurants done in polished concrete and brushed steel.

more from Justin Davidson at New York Magazine here.