The view from my "office" window
I live in the shadow of Devil's peak in the southern suburb of Newlands. It's tucked in the folds of mountain mother and known as the rainiest part of Cape Town. Although I have a view of its peak from my home office window, I often forget that this incredible piece of nature's architecture is real and not just a stage backdrop!
A couple of weeks ago, I climbed Lion's Head, on the north west side of Table Mountain with a few friends. Climbing up that conical shaped mountain seems to always cause me to contemplate life and nature - it's something to do with having a massive rock on one side of you and on the other a steep drop and glorious views over an expansive city. And so shaped by nature this city is. It's also something to do with the expending of intense energy that clears the mind of the everyday clutter of thoughts and brings the mind's focus towards one place - the top. It was a busy morning and I was struck by the desire of so many to reach the top of this peak - for what? Perhaps a nice breakfast and a well deserved rest; but something else. An innate desire to find the top; to be bigger and higher; to be humbled by the vastness of the earth and the sea; to be engulfed by nature, drawn upwards to meet our own maker, and Architect.
A tree "nave" and a Gothic Cathedral nave reaching towards heaven (tree image: margotaparis.wordpress.com)
Looking back through architectural history this desire has always been the catalyst of innovation, invention and advancement in technology. From the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, to the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Interestingly, another driving factor has been a spiritual pursuit. Think of the grand arched volts, of the Gothic Cathedrals reaching heavenwards, like trees, to bring in light and inspire the congregation to seek God.
The Burj (difficult to fit into a camera frame!)
Yet from the Twentieth century onwards, spurred by the Industrial Age a different force has driven man to reach skywards. The desire to be God. I visited Dubai in January 2012. There you can visit the world's currently tallest building, the Burj Khalifa which towers at a height of 829.8m (taller than Lion's Head). It is slender like a needle and the sun bounces off it in sharp blinding bursts. It is magnificent and surreal. It is a representation of man's defiance of nature's elements - it is man's cathedral to himself. My, how clever we have become. And Dubai is enjoying its glory for or now, until the next world's tallest building is completed in neighbouring city Abu Dhabi.
For now though I am relfecting on what defies the work of my hands, and my mind. I'm closer to heaven than the Burj Khalifa.
I wrote this poem a few years ago after a mountain climb.
This blog is about...
My thoughts as I go about visiting interesting places, attending exhibitions and conferences, and the architectural world we live in.