Christopher Woodward’s In Ruins (2001) is a wonderfully written account of art history and literature’s relationship with the ruin, from Gustave Doré’s New Zealander of 1872 contemplating the crumbling edifices of a future London to John Piper’s Second World War paintings of bomb-damaged Coventry and Bath (Woodward also discusses W.G. Sebald’s visit to Orford Ness in The Rings of Saturn). Brian Dillon’s new book Ruins, in the excellent Documents of Contemporary Art series, has 20th-century texts on our complex reactions to ruins by Georg Simmel, Walter Benjamin (The Arcades Project) and Rose Macaulay (Pleasure of Ruins, 1953).
The reductive “ruin porn” tag ignores the cultural history of the ruin, along with its deeper philosophical dimensions.
More: Rick Poynor: The Unspeakable Pleasure of Ruins: Observers Room: Design Observer