I drove down to Norrköping Thursday morning to look at two small Medieval castle ruins for my new project. The one at Landsjö in Kimstad is difficult to reach because it’s on a small island in a lake where nobody keeps a boat. So I had bought one of those big tractor-tyre things (that people tug after their motorboats) and a hand pump, and borrowed a kayak paddle from my dad. Turned out that the textile sheath that forms the floor of the ring I was sitting in was anything but watertight, so my bottom got soaked in 5°C lake water. No matter, I was thrilled to get out to the island, which is high and steep and overgrown. The visible masonry is in very poor shape due to erosion and quarrying, but there are enormous amounts of collapse material that can cover pretty much anything. The second site, Ålborgen in Vånga, is in way better shape: partly because it hasn’t been roofless for quite as long as Landsjö, partly because it’s been restored, but mainly because it hasn’t been quarried much.
Quarrying is in fact the typical fate of ruins. The idea of preserving them in a ruinous state arises in the 18th century. All sensible people see a ruin as either a quarry or as a building that should get a roof and quit being a ruin. The people who order the quarrying or give permission for it are always the owners. You wouldn’t just give away building material for free!
The natural fate of masonry ruins is to erode until they cover themselves in their own collapse material. The moment you remove the collapse material this process starts anew. Today’s cleared-out visitor-friendly ruins are in a highly volatile state. Sooner or later they will either get new roofs or the upkeep slips and they will collapse again.