Monday, June 9, 2008

Look, up in the sky

When I was in high school, I sat in the back of pre-algebra class sketching out bridges on graph paper.

At one point, I even toyed with being a civil engineer and build bridges, the same things that scare me. (What scares me, fascinates me.)

I've had a keen interest in architecture, the way buildings dot the sky. I'm drawn to how buildings play together, and against, each other.

I'm picking thorugh the New York Times magazine's special report on cities and architecture. (The cover shot is playful, and stark.)

Nicolai Ouroussoff, the Times' architecture critic, writes a great piece on instant cities, and how they are changing the very definition of how cities get build.

Dubai is of particular interest to me. There is a sort of Wild West aspect to it, a place build almost literally out of nothing. I want to go there out of sheer curiosity, to see if it is for real, or a Potemkin village, all show and no go.

What do these places mean for our future? For the past few decades, our growth has been outward, sprawling generically into the countryside. Will the future of architecture be just as generic, but climbing ever higher instead of out?

Back to Dubai. The Burj Dubai, when completed, is expected to be a half-mile high. Yes, 2,500-plus feet. Do we need something like that? Maybe not. Is it wasteful? Possibly. But there is something about it that is fascinating. To crane our necks skyward, and marvel at man's brilliance (and hubris), and wonder if we ourselves could--or would--live 1,600 feet above the ground.

A supertall skyscraper like the Burj Dubai is sort of a metaphor for life. Even as we may wag our finger at the expense and wastefulness, we wonder what it would be like with our heads above the clouds.

Good architecture should do that--move the onloooker.

No comments: