THE VIEW FROM ABOVE

P1010969I’m staying in a Miami hotel, looking down on Brickell Avenue. Since I’m on the 29th floor, I can see the roofs of several lower buildings. Looking down on a building gives a different perspective of its architecture. From this vantage point, buildings that appear solid from the ground become insubstantial, theatrical, flimsy—the facade revealed as merely a wrapper. The wrapper stops at roof level, and the roof itself, invisible from below, is a utilitarian collection of cooling towers and other mechanical equipment. The building across the avenue is a recently completed office tower with ten-story annex whose roof is covered with a garden. Seen from above, a garden is still a garden, the swaying palms are still palms, the pavement pattern is still a pattern. This reminds me that much of architecture is a manufactured illusion—the magically hovering cantilever, the effortlessly sweeping roof, the glass handrail that almost isn’t there. Whereas landscape is always landscape.

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