Although it purports to provoke, the fragment ultimately fails to convey the supposed sense of dread, of apocalyptic doom-saying, because of its painfully anachronistic geometry. Its classical form reflects not our own society but that of the already buried past. It slots neatly into the established Western archetype of the dead culture, that of the Parthenon and the Roman Forum. It is not a challenging image but a familiar, reassuring avatar of age-old romantic notions of the past. One could almost imagine Goethe sitting contemplatively nearby. Of course the geometry is not entirely bound to antiquity, Melbourne has its share of Neo-classical buildings, not least the State Library itself, (which the fragment echoes with a semi-obscured "Library" emblazoned across it in pompous Latin font) but even these are symbols of an already extinct past, co-opted and comfortably quantified. They were not built within living memory and do not present themselves to us as vital objects. They are not our buildings but those of a long dead, alien generation.
What would be truly scary would be to have the form of a contemporary building emerging as a symbol of destruction. Not a simulacrum of the familiar Greco-Roman ruins, but, for instance, the brash laissez-faire positivism of the corporate skyscraper. To see our living, breathing cosmopolitan lifestyle reduced to a skeleton, that really would be an uncomfortable exposure. But we shy away from this, and so the concept behind the sculpture loses all power. The difference between what the sculpture is and what it is supposed to be is the difference between knowing one is going to die, and really knowing one is going to die; that is, the difference between the formal, rudimentary knowledge that all living things must die, and the gut-wrenching realisation that this animated being that is 'me' will one day be annihilated. The skulls in the catacombs of Paris are horrifying only if you picture them as human heads and if you force yourself to accept that, under the skin, one's own head is nought but a stained, yellow skull. Otherwise they are no different from the decor in a second-rate Goth club. And here is the flaw in the Architectural Fragment; it is not a real warning, not a genuine sign of horror, but merely a titillating spectacle, playing by the established rules of apocalypse porn. No more haunting than Bruce Willis' pathetic death in Armageddon, it similarly raises the spectre of total oblivion, while ultimately reassuring us that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK.
In this sense the Architectural Fragment is a distillation of our timidity in acknowledging Thanatos and of our blind confidence in survival. We are petrified of climate change yet make no real efforts to curb it. We are all familiar with images of melting ice caps and simulations of flooded cities, yet cannot truly imagine them impacting our daily existence. Looked at this way, the sculpture may well transpire to be an architectural fragment, just not in the way originally envisioned.