The Beauty of Decay
May 30, 2002

I often find myself torn between the desire for the new and the attraction to the old.

It's something I inherited from studying architecture I suppose, where one is constantly creating something new with the knowledge that time will have an effect on that which is created.

Having worked on both physical and virtual structures, I often find myself reflecting on the nature of the passage of time registering on an object as decay.

decayThe two dimensional surfaces of buildings "remember" the changing seasons. On the surface veneer of a web page, there is no such registration of time. No dog-eared pages, flaking paint or worn down steps here. A web site will look the same today as it did 5 years ago, albeit a little outdated design. Decay to a web site results in broken links, stale content and infrequent visits.

After 9/11, there were numerous memorial sites dedicated to the victims and the events of the horrific tragedy. Where are they now? Or more importantly, who visits them now? Are not memorial created as a permanent reminder of an events, lest we forget? Like Leonard Shelby in Memento, we need to consciously focus to remember. "It's not amnesia, it just that I can't form new memories." That's so true about our condition on the Internet.

In that context, to be able to admire building in a gradual state of decay presents a unique beauty. It's not stuck in the compressed "constant new and now" state of things, but grows old just as we all do.

Recently I began to wonder, what Frank Gehry's visionary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, with its titanium cladding and serpentine forms - the gleaming testament to our "now" - will look like in 100 years.