12 April 2012

The Majesty of Decay

There is a certain wisp of aesthetic beauty in abandonment. Dilapidated cities omit an artistic resonance in their crumbling walls, elegantly decrepit doors and defaced buildings. On occasions the crumbling architecture can leave these cities looking worn and melancholy, but they can also create a palpable atmosphere of antiquity and romance. There is mystery and beauty in the wears of dilapidation and the majesty of decay.


The colourful crumbling walls of the ancient city of Old Havana radiate an inimitable romantic aestheticism and an infectious charm. Many of the baroque and neoclassical buildings that make up the heart of this historic city have now fallen to ruin or succumb to the slow dilapidation of passing time. The narrow cobbled streets and sun-swept plazas hold the stories of many generations in their old facades and sing the slow, sedentary lullaby of deterioration.


The oldest part of this bustling city consists of primarily 19th century architecture, some of which has been well restored, keeping its colonial charm, while other buildings sit in various stages of decay. Mahatma Gandhi described Calcutta as a ‘dying city’ but it is anything but having long been known for its literary and artistic heritage.


The little coastal town of Kampot makes for a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of Cambodia’s larger cities. Located on both sides of the Kampot River the town’s connecting Old Bridge is quite a sight to behold, destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period, it has been repaired in a mishmash of styles and omits an old-worldly charm over the river. From its baguette carts to its crumbling French colonial architecture, Kampot is a Cambodian treasure trove of beauty.


Detroit is synonymous with the term ‘urban decay’, littered with derelict, ghostly buildings, abandoned by humanity and left to the nimble fingers of dilapidation. The objects left behind in these hollow buildings tell the stories of the hearts that once beat within them. The abandoned United Artists Theatre and Lee Plaza Hotel are beautifully hollow and skeletal now, left to silently gather dust.


Sarajevo is the fastest growing city in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is undergoing major post-war reconstruction, making for a city of magnificent architectural contrasts where the old and the new converge. Bashcharshiya is the heart of old Sarajevo, a walk through its narrow streets will bring you back in time. Each higgledy-piggledy street is dedicated to a craft, the most interesting being the traditional metalwork, jewellery, and pottery shops.


Salvador de Bahia is a city rich in folklore and archaic mystery. The historical centre of Salvador, frequently called the Pelourinho, is renowned for its Portuguese colonial architecture with beautiful historical monuments dating from the 17th through the 19th centuries. This enchanting part of Salvador  has been declared a World Heritage Site and has subsequently managed to retain a tangible charm in the antiquity and character of its streets and colourful houses.



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