My project starts with a painting of Joseph Gandy – The Bird’s eye view of Bank of England. In 1833, John Soane celebrated the completion of his biggest project – The Bank of England – by exhibiting The Bird’s eye view of the Bank of England – a painting of the building in ruin that he commission Gandy to draw. This painting carries two main influences that I want to talk about in my project:
1. The collect and collapse of antiquities
Piranesi’s works such as the Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma introduced fascination of Roman antiquities. This imaginative map suggested a new way to view Rome, collapsing many eras together. Soane, captivated by Piranesi’s works, had also built an admiration on antiquities. It was Soane’s ultimate aim for his own works to be considered as antiquities. Piranesi brought the past to the present with Campo Marzio; in The Bird’s eye view of the Bank of England, Piranesi’s idea was reversed. Soane envisioned putting his new, most proud of piece of architecture to the past, being one of the antiquities.
2. Views of ruins that are constructed to evoke emotion.
Hubert Robert had drawn the Louvre in function and in ruin, manipulating the perspective of the painting to evoke emotional reaction. Gandy did a very similar thing, painting the ruin of Bank of England as a fantasy, utilising the fragility of architecture to engage the viewers.
Antiquities and the Picturesque were some of the favourite topics during the 18th century. In the English gardens, like Stourehead and Stowe Garden, the architects designed follies to mimic ancient Roman and Greek buildings, aiming to capture picturesque views. These follies however are ruins of context, as they are removed from their original context and disconnect to their era of style. These gardens are essentially the theme park of ruins.
In my re-con, I’ll take you on a journey through my version of the ruin theme park. Like Campo Marzio, the theme park collapsed ruins of various styles and periods. These ruins are collected together and arranged to satisfy the ruin lust of its visitors. As we turn from one view to the other, the time and location transform according to the ruin that we view. These ruins are framed by its nature and landscape around, constructing a picturesque view.
The first region brings together the Ancient Ruins: the ruin of Acropolis and the Roman Forum. In these paintings: Acropolis, Athena by Ernst Carl Eugen Koerner and Capriccio with ruins of Roman Forum by Claude Lorraine, the ruins are painted as a landmark. They are the icons of the ruins, marking an important era of the ancient time.
The next region incorporates the ruins caused my Human Disasters, where we see Dresden, the Tacoma Narrow bridge and the fall of the World trade centre. Viewing these ruins, we are instantly reminded of the events. These ruins themselves, are not iconic like the ancient ruins. They only existed for a short period of time, what remained in our minds are the events leading to the destruction, warning us for the future.
In the region of Natural disaster, the scale of the ruins increase, and became a ruin landscape. In the San Francisco earthquake and the flooding caused by hurricane Katrina, we no longer see the ruin as an object. The overwhelmingness of the scene lies on its scale of destruction, reminding us human’s insignificant and the power of nature over civilisation.
The Modern Ruin region is composed of ruin of the British Military of the 2nd World war, the Bunkers and ruins from Detroit. In the Manusell Sea Forts and the Bunkers, the ruin objects had become inseparable to their surroundings. The ruins turned into part of the landscape. (how about detroit?)
The Industrial Ruins collects together the Water Tower photographed by the Bechers, the Grafton viaduct as drawn by George Baloghy and the Ruin of the Industrial Tower. They recall us of a significant era of our past which we have left behind. These buildings are once an essential cog of the modern development. As their roles in civilisation disintegrate, they become disconnected to the present society.
We arrive at the region of Follies at the end. Essentially, all we see in the ruin theme park are follies. These objects are removed from their context, this disconnection transform the ruins to a visual object. The landscape is used as a frame to construct a contrived, picturesque view of the ruins, turning the ruins to part of the scenery.
The last two views are on the Bank of England. Standing amongst the follies, we see Soane’s view of the Bank of England in Ruin, with the ancient ruins of Acropolis and Roman Forum on it background. Situated amongst them, Soane’s Bank of England become one of the antiquities.
As we walk past and look back, we see Gandy’s Bank of England in Ruin, where he is looking to the future of using the fragility of architecture to construct a romantic view, evoking emotion and imagination of the viewers. Like the follies, Gandy’s buildings are used as one of the landscaping tools, leading us into the architects’ imagination.
Soane commission Gandy to paint his Bank of England in ruin, hoping to see immortality in architecture, yet there is always fragilities in architecture. Like what we see in the ruin theme park, they all turn into ruin in one way or another, as nature always prevails. It is when architecture transforms into part of the landscape, its transient state can finally turn permanent. Gandy exhibited Architecture, its Natural Model as one of his last paintings. Maybe this is the solution he gave Soane for Soane’s search of immortal architecture.