Steam blew out of her mouth and fogged her glasses against the backdrop of the night sky. Rubber-and-leather-clad feet crunched on gravel, echoing against the whip of flags in the wind, the sirens, the thrum of jet engines. Even with the ghostly pencil of stone carving a swath between a crescent moon and two planets, she sighed. The National Mall on a windy night wasn't her idea of a fun slog after a zig-zagging day of work, dashing from place to place to place around the District.
Posts tagged ‘Arts’
This is a bonus post, or number eight of seven. I had not realized how hard it would be to write about architecture without using pictures; it was so fortunate that MTM’s Seven Architectural Wonders were able to be illustrated by alternating between the blogs of Kate Shrewsday and the Andra Watkins. Since I (MTM) am no longer a paid pedant, I tried to make these as entertaining and enlightening as possible in 600 words or less. The only ground rule: I could not include a work of architecture that I have not experienced directly and personally, just as one’s list of Great Books should not include a book one hasn’t yet read.
I am truly grateful for all of the comments and interest generated by my week of writing on architecture for The Accidental Cootchie Mama and Kate Shrewsday. It is nice to know that my posts managed to have you thinking and looking at architecture in new ways. Certainly, the limit of Seven made for a steep challenge, and I will be the first to admit that the seven featured works are far from exclusive.
While I have returned the blogging reins to Andra and Kate, here is one last missive to stretch your architectural acumen: or at least to see if you have been paying attention and reading between the lines. In honor of the completion of MTM’s Seven Wonders of Architecture, we have a little contest. With a prize.
Those of you that read along with the week of posts that began on September 5 with The City and Its Tower and concluded yesterday with The Eternal Frame know full well the way the architectural theme was woven throughout. The more astute readers among you may have also recognized two peripheral themes that ran in parallel with the Seven Wonders.
Our contest is to identify the two other themes. Both themes are imbedded in every blog post over the week. The winner will be the first person to correctly identify both of the themes in a comment on both blogs; your comment must appear on both www.andrawatkins.com and www.kateshrewsday.com to be valid.
The winner will receive an architecturally-themed prize (of course) delivered to their doorstep. Andra is not eligible (she knows the answer) and Kate should sit on her hands and let others try, since she has control over the comment stream on her blog. Either Andra or Kate will be identifying the winner, and I will be personally responsible for getting the winner their prize.
Thank you for reading along. Have at it….
He was stuck–dumbstruck, really. This was not what he was expecting, and his emotions had overtaken his wonder. Less than thirty minutes ago, he was in extreme unction, his life on a knife’s edge. Wandering those tight dark alleyways, surrounded by all this solidity, the sense of weightlessness unnerved him. It was already replaying in his mind as he stood in this room, as he knew it would for the rest of the life he now had had given back to him. How if his foot had slipped one bit off of that edge he would have been smashed to smithereens. It chilled him to his bones, yet he couldn’t decide if it was from his slim escape, or the shock of the explosion of space, the sliver of sky, the framed glimpse of the heavens.
So it was that he fully understood her emotions when she stepped foot into The Pantheon for the first time. It did not require that she feel that she had cheated death; she simply felt the awesome power of this perfect volume. Like that cavern, the oculus admitted a single shaft of light: here it was not an accident of erosion, but the intentional introduction of the dome’s designers. It slashed across the space, alighting on the concave walls of the monumental cylinder. Transfixed, it became the one marker of the passage of time, of seconds, minutes, hours and eons.
He crawled around the outside, looking for clues of the compromises he had learned of. He was always irked that the portico was ill-proportioned, and there it was, the traces of how a smaller portico had been grafted on after the ship with the grander columns had sunk somewhere down the Nile. How the builders had to go down to the Rome Depot to pick up some other columns in order to meet the deadline of Agrippa’s coronation. She was uninterested, and dragged him back through the black anteroom and into the perfect sphere of space.
The memory rushed back at him, like a freight train plowing through the piazza. In an instant he was exploring the lava caves of Mt. Suswa in Kenya again, miles from civilization. He could feel his toes tickling the edge of the precipice, loose rocks tinkling down the cavern, their echoes sending signals of infinity as their journey found no bottom to the void that yearned to swallow him whole and steal his life, his promise, his ambitions, his sins and sacraments. The floor of the cave had given way, and he of the seven was the sacrifice. His instinct to reach for any crack and the narrowest of ledges were all that stood between him and his end.
His companions had grasped him, pulling him out of the gaping maw. It was only when they happened upon that sun-stroked cavern that the heaviness really hit him.
Like it was hitting him now, inside The Pantheon. It is easy to be lazy about our lives in the minutes and minutiae of the daily grind. Here in this perfect room, he couldn’t help but think in lifetimes and eons, of the second chance he had gotten, and how, at this moment, holding the love of his life and cradled by his passion, he was one with eternity.
This is the fifth post of seven, each a response to Kate Shrewsday’s request for an itinerary of MTM’s Seven Architectural Wonders. Each text post has a corollary visual post; the text and image posts will alternate between the blogs of Kate Shrewsday and the Andra Watkins. Since I (MTM) am no longer a paid pedant, I will try to make these as entertaining and enlightening as possible in 600 words or less. One ground rule: I cannot include a work of architecture I have not experienced directly and personally, just as one’s list of Great Books should not include a book one hasn’t yet read.
To see the images of the Maison de Verre for this fifth post please click here!
“Would you like some more tea?”
“Yes, please. I must say, your home is so elegant and comfortable; I would have never guessed it the first time I came into your courtyard. Such a surprise. It is not at all like a fishbowl.”
“As much as we entertain here, it really is one of the most private homes. Monsieur Chareau was fabulous; he designed everything to make this house perfect for the way we wanted to live. He had such a lust for every detail. And Mr. Dalbet is a virtuoso in metal. I remember when we told them how we wished we could live without having to make people serve us, and by that night they had devised a whole mechanism to bring food from the kitchen automatically. The house is so intricate yet refined, like a Swiss watch. And it is so peaceful, even though we are in the midst of Paris.”
“I am so glad we shared this tea together. You have been so gracious; I thought being with your husband would be really awkward, given our friendship.”
“My husband and I truly believe in having a modern marriage and living a modern lifestyle It’s like this house: many have preconceptions that it is cold and unemotional, but we both have learned how sensual all its mechanisms are. It is both masculine and feminine: it embraces each of us as individuals and together, and we couldn’t imagine going back to more traditional way of life.”
“Well, I guess it is time. I am still nervous; I have never done this before, you know.”
“You should not worry. Monsieur is so very gentle. And he feels strongly that sterility is important for everyone’s interest. You will be in very capable hands. Would you feel better if I took you downstairs?”
“Oh, no, no. I will be fine.”
“Very well. At the bottom of the stairs where you came in, just rotate the metal screen to the other side and you can go right in. He should be waiting for you.”
“Ma chère, you look radiant. I know this is a new experience for you so I hope I can make you feel relaxed. It may sound clinical but it is important we take precautions to prevent disease. If it will make you more comfortable, I will stand behind this screen while you disrobe.”
“You had a nice tea with my wife, I hope. She loves to show off all the mechanical toys…”
“Ok, ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Alright, now lay down and place your feet up in these stirrups. Relax. Trust me, this won’t hurt a bit. My hygienic practice of gynecology is really going to change women’s’ lives for the better. I feel it is so important, a revolution, really. Imagine how free you will be not to have to worry always about….”
He spoke continually in soft but assured tones, while his hands deftly orchestrated the array of scientific instruments. Dappled light reflected onto the ceiling, as soothing as if she had been in the garden rather than lying on her back, naked on the cool leather.
As she dressed herself, Dr. Dalsace discretely disappeared. When she was clothed, he materialized again, and reached for her hand, gently placing his palm in the curve of her back. “Let me show you out.”
He reached for the door latch. As he grasped it between his thumb and finger, it slid in the curved slot in the convex aluminum surface, arcing downward away from him as the door eased open, willing him to bend forward in a gracious bow. Having just seen her at her most compromised, he now demurred to her as he returned her to the daylight.
She left the house, looking back at the translucent glass façade, and she felt she saw the future with clarity.