I’ve been going through old magazines to find articles that I hope to read, re-read, or even incorporate into the final edits of the BLDGBLOG Book – and so tonight I came across the January 2007 issue of Metropolis.
There, we read about the ten greatest engineering feats of architectural history – including this short blurb about Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul:
The building was constructed of masonry, which shifted constantly during construction and thereafter. Today we use “switch-on gravity analysis,” where we imagine a structure built on the Moon and then digitally move it over to the Earth in a fraction of a second, and suddenly it’s loaded. But a structure like this changed its characteristics during construction, almost minute by minute. I can’t image [sic] how people could have had the courage to construct it.
It’s fascinating to think that the very thing under construction is in the process of altering itself. The structure has taken on agency, in other words: moving, shifting, becoming something other than what you intended it to be. That which you add to, shifts; that which supports you, changes.
At the end, then, perhaps we’ll all look down at our own foundations, at the walls and arches below us, as if to reassure ourselves, to remember who we were, how we got here, and who we once thought we could be – but our foundations will be defaced or gone.
The past has “changed its characteristics during construction, almost minute by minute” – and so we’re stranded, over a void, our feet firmly planted on nothing.
The only answer, then, will be to keep building up, to go out, to resist the nostalgic pull of foundations, seeking overwhelming extremes of both altitude and complication.
Perhaps we’ll then forget, in a state of self-induced vertigo, that we once needed a past at all – and that the building in which we now stand had a plan, a plan the building itself had always been exceeding.