Ruin Lust comes from the German word “Ruinenlust”, first used by Rose Macaulay in “Pleasure of Ruins”(1953). It means an absurd or contradictory suggestion that may well be true.

Ruins tend to be paradoxes as they are windows into the past, and something of the structure must still stand for us to call it a ruin and not a pile of rubble. It is, paradoxically, a leap forward into the future as a prediction that one day our present will be found in a similar state. Therefore ruins are both windows into the past, but examples of the past in the present, and a suggestion of our futures.

The obsession over Ruin Lust started in the 18th Century but artworks began depicting it 200 years earlier. The obsession over great civilizations falling into decay reminds me somewhat of something I heard once about every civilization, at the height of their power, (in this case they were using the Roman Empire as an example) crumbles and falls, as something of a romantic inevitability. Such was the allure of Ruins that some architects and garden designers were asked to artificially depict ruins to several estates.

I think this plays into a lot of portrayals of dystopian worlds, especially in visual mediums such as movies or video games. I hadn’t realized it until now, or really thought about it to be honest, but I suppose if there’s a dystopian post-apocalypse in America, there’s an allure to seeing Washington DC, a world famous city with some recognizable landmarks, falling into decay and ruin.


Concept art for The Capitol Building in Washington DC from Fallout 3.

I think this theme could be an inspiration for other games that portray civilizations in decline such as Rapture from the Bioshock series.


Rapture, from the Bioshock series. The clue is probably in the name.


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