Monuments

In Spain there’s an Aqueduct. There’s probably more than one aqueduct in Spain but I’m talking about a specific one. This specific one is located in the town of Segovia, north of Madrid. This particular aqueduct is made from giant blocks of stone. The huge dual arches, which stretch several storeys into the air, are held together with… nothing. Nothing but gravity, and time. The stone blocks are heavy enough to remain in place; over centuries they’ve been welded together by weather and their own erosion.
This impressive structure was made by the Romans sometime around the 2nd Century AD. Until recently it was still being used to provide water to the town.
Just think about that for a minute. Think about how damned impressive that it. It’s a structure that takes your breath away because it’s so huge and beautiful and OLD.
While we were travelling we encountered the most amazing structures. Cathedrals and towers and bridges. Ridiculously large stadiums and cities that float on mud. There’s a lot of reasons we don’t really make things like that any more  The abolition of slavery for one. These days most leaders struggle to think beyond the next election let alone beyond their own term. We can’t plan for 50 years into the future so why should we create things that will last beyond the realms of living memory?
When I visited the aqueduct in Segovia I remember experiencing this overwhelming sense of sadness. 
I was sad that I would probably never live to see something like this constructed.
There’s this guy called Albert Speer. He’s an architect. You’ve probably never heard of him – there’s a number of reasons for that – so let me tell you about him. Albert Speer had a lot of fairly amazing theories about how things could be built. He had this idea, for example, that if you start building in all four corners at once, and meet in the middle, you can construct very large things a lot quicker. But my favourite one of his theories is “The Law of Ruins”. The Law of Ruins is the idea that you build something to fall down. You create and design and build a structure so that it will not only look impressive now but it will be beautiful in a thousand years when it’s crumbling and inhabited by birds.
I love this idea. The idea that you build something to crumble. That you create it to exist for such an incomprehensibly long time that it will fall apart. That you make it for the future.*
We don’t create things to last. We live in the age that thought up in-build obsolescence  iPods might be a design classic but they don’t remain functional for more than a decade, let alone a thousand years. Sometimes I think that when archaeologists try to investigate this era, all they’ll find is a layer of incomprehensible plastic, intact but without meaning. We will be remembered for things that didn’t degrade, an accidental, cryptic legacy.
Sometimes I can’t help thinking… what will our age be remembered for? Does this generation have any monuments at all?

* The reason you’ve never heard of Alber Speer? Due to being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, all his great buildings were made for… well, Hitler. And as such, the British bombed them all to buggery and all that is left is some lamp posts. But that’s another story.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year