WORDS | Claire Catacouzinos
Close your eyes. Imagine a garden with Doric marble colonnades and a mosaic floor depicting a goddess reclining, a pillow under her arm, wearing a laurel wreath, her breasts exposed under a transparent chiton. In the centre of the internal garden there stands a water-fountain, a nymph bending over, pouring water from a jug, her face frozen in time. A perfect example to visualise this scene is from Pompeii at the House of the Vetti. Or perhaps you want to picture the inside of an Egyptian tomb, or an enclosed garden in a temple, lotus flowers planted along a fishpond with palm trees.
Centrepieces. Statues. Terraced gardens. Peristyles. Courtyards. Obelisks. Pyramids. Temples. These are the natural artworks forged by the hands of craftsmen, architects, and artists over history. They used natural resources, like limestone, marble, granite, sandstone, clay, and alabaster – the stone quarries were their construction sites. Fast forward to the 21st century and construction sites are littered with soot and machine tools, still with hardworking men, but their resources are industrial – concrete, slabs of brick, and metal.
What does this say about our society’s future? About the historic buildings we’ll leave behind? Will our earth end up abandoned, and covered in pollution and waste like in the movie WALL-E? Are we a ‘throw-away society’, over consuming, and obsessed with excessive production of disposable items thanks to the spread of industrialisation and modernity?
National Geographic claims in Aftermath: World Without Humans that if mankind were to disappear from the Earth, buildings would begin to crumble under natural stresses. And what buildings do you think those are? Even Professor Will Steffen on The Anthropocene in TEDxCanberra shows us the overwhelming impact humanity has had on earth since the Industrial Revolution. So what do you think is the future of our earth? And what stamp do we want our society to leave in history?
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