This chapter focuses on an ethnographically minded genealogy of a recurring image used to describe Brazilian cities: that of the premature ruin or “still construction and already ruin”. It traces this recurring image as it moves through different enunciations and subject positions over time: initially a metaphor to describe the specificity of cities of the New World by a French anthropologist in a context of national developmentism in the 1930s and ’40s, later, and in the words of a songwriter, it becomes an allegory that spins vivid images of inequalities that helped describe what was already perceived as a new global order in the early 1990s. The chapter then traces its trajectory as an ethnographic motif that becomes exhausted but lends itself to a research agenda on the politics of urban infrastructure and city-making in Rio de Janeiro and hopefully elsewhere. The cities of the Old World contained a distinct monumental experience of a past-bound temporality.