Ruins Amongst Modernity: The Value of Finding Beauty in Fragments

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”—T.S. Eliot

Wandering through the greying blocks of the vast metropolis, a decaying medieval church stands resolutely amongst the maelstrom of modernity. St Dunstan-in-the-East is an enchanting jewel, located between London Bridge and the Tower of London; it is an island of tranquillity which allows us to experience a moment of respite, whilst navigating the turbulent waters of life.

During times of uncertainty, the sense of alienation is greatly magnified when one’s identity undergoes great upheaval; although decaying spaces seem inanimate, they are bountiful in their offerings of history and the manner in which time changes the form of solid constructions. The dynamic tension between civilisation and nature is at play, as the spatial configuration between the trees and ornate arches shroud the spectator within a theatrical atmosphere. Interestingly, a former religious institution is being taken over by the greenery, illustrating the transformative power of organic forms. A bucolic paradise springs forth through the rocks, as the roots entwine and the verdant leaves are arranged as canopies of calm above our heads.

Dissections of temporal frameworks allow us to grapple with moments of loss and recovery; to be able to locate authenticity in a volatile world is of little comfort. Instead, being open to rising anew from the rubble of yesterday emboldens the mind, as evolution requires tenacity and flexibility. Erosion should not be viewed with hostility, but with a sense of curiosity, as we quest onwards into the unknown. By rethinking the metaphors of death and decay, there is a repurposing in the function of buildings. We partake in a symbiotic relationship with the environment around us, and so by exploring the dialogue between the self and world at large, an unravelling of preconceived notions is enacted.

As a whole, London is a city of interrupted texts and irregular records of the past. To gather our bearings within an unfamiliar location requires us to decipher the etchings of past and present remains. St Dunstan-in-the-East is emblematic of T.S. Eliot’s vision of “fragments…shored against [his] ruins”; ultimately, it is a monument to the mutability of Time, and the kaleidoscopic arrangement of events that are intricately weaved together. 

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