The view from above (final)

[this is the fourth and last segment of a post started here (part 1), and continued here (part 2) and here (part 3)]

When the view from above encounters architecture, the result is the architectural plan, like the Plan of St Gall already mentioned. Modelling and representing architectural space was a double effect of writing. Writing helped the human mind master categories of impersonal space away from lived experience. It also, interestingly enough, provided the source for some of the earliest architectural plans. These were plans of buildings described in written texts handed down in manuscript. The most common in the West was Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, described in several books of the Old Testament.

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 12.29.52

This plan of the Temple in Jerusalem complete with architectural elements (columns, entrances and wall thickness) and captions was derived from the Book of Ezechiel (chapter 41), Harley MS 461, f. 29v.

Looking at things from above without being above is one of the most striking achievements of human culture. Looking at things up from below, like the first humans looking at the heavens, or looking down at things from the International Space Station is no small matter either. But it does well to remind ourselves that putting pen to paper is far more than a simple act. It is a breakthrough into a world beyond our vision, where little remains impossible and invisible.

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