The Beelitz Sessions - Ulli Richter and Christoph Knoch

psychological and emotional, almost anthropomorphic, power invested in ruins by those in whom the seeds of “ruin-sensibility” have risen.6

A more formally acknowledged godparent of ruin scholarship, the German cultural philosopher and one of the founders of academic sociology, Georg Simmel, forty years before Macaulay produced her idiosyncratic and elegantly written book, referred to “our general fascination with decay and decadence”.7 It was 1911, and, with the influence of late Romanticism evident in his essay “The Ruin”, a founding text of modern ruin theory, Simmel bestowed upon ruins a spiritual, even quasi-religious, status: architecture represents a “unique balance” between “the human soul in its upward striving and nature in its gravity”, but the material from which architecture is fashioned is ultimately subject to the laws of nature, not to those of man. When buildings decay and begin to crumble, the balance shifts and “a new whole, a characteristic [new] unity”, and a new beauty, emerges: ruins are not only charming, they possess “a metaphysical aesthetic significance”.8

However, when the ruin decays to the extent that the original structure can no longer be discerned, when the upward striving of the human spirit can no longer be seen in “a mere heap of stones…the formlessness of mere matter”, its “metaphysical–aesthetic charm” and thus its significance are dissipated and the return to earth is complete. Quoting both Goethe and the Book of Genesis,