If you want to live forever, be the next person to build something like this. There is a reason why 100 of the most famous landmarks in the world are buildings. Even descriptions of great buildings that we have never seen live on for the ages. No one has seen Solomon’s temple as described in the Bible. Yet it is one of the most iconic buildings in the world. That’s a neat trick.
A grand structure captures the imagination. When we look at one of these works of art in person, we are transported from the reality right before us, to some place magical where our greatest aspirations find expression. One would think that when you’ve seen one tall building, you’ve seen them all. Yet we never get enough of familiar skylines.
Take a walk in mid-town Manhattan and you will find yourself looking up at buildings you have seen a thousand times. You are not really seeing that building, though. You are seeing everything it does and might represent. Here is a little of what you are seeing, and why architecture is the greatest show on earth:
The Intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts
The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., was fond of talking about the intersection of technology and liberal arts. In his world, the competition was so focused on the technology, they often overlooked the art. In an architect’s world, far too many are focused on the art, and forget about the technology.
Architecture is both art and science. The great ones specialize in both. Construction management schools are an important part of the process of producing the greatest show on earth. A painter can paint without ever learning the chemistry behind the art. A musician can thrill without knowing a thing about the underlying physics of sound. But a great architect cannot build without knowing both the art and science, as well as the management requirements for building a timeless temple of dreams.
One of the reasons we stare in awe at the great structures is because our hearts understand what our brains have not quite worked out. On the corner of 5th and Main, what we are really seeing is the intersection of technology and art. And when done right, it is always worth stopping for another look.
Would you like to travel back in time? All you have to do is take a visit to the Tumulus of Bougon in France. One look will transport you back to 4800 BCE. That’s approaching 7,000 years ago. Or how about the Great Pyramid of Giza, which reigned as the tallest man-made structure for nearly 4000 years?
Gazing at the stars is a form of time travel. You don’t even have to look that far off into the distance. Glance at the sun and you are not seeing it as it is at that moment. You are seeing it as it was 8 minutes ago. That’s how long it takes for its light to reach earth. If you were unlucky enough to be stranded on Pluto, it would take 5.3 hours. If you want to see the Ming Dynasty, just go to China. Become a great architect, and they will be seeing our present 1,000 years in the future. With great architecture, we don’t need time machines.
Some of the greatest architecture is invisible. It is so transparent to our lives, we hardly notice it had anything to do with architecture. Why do we stay dry when it rains? That is an architectural advancement that we take for granted, as is the fact that we can stay cool when it is 100 degrees outside.
We have buildings that can withstand fire and earthquakes. They can sway in the wind, bend but not break. Books could be written about the advances in roofing and foundations. It is the invisible magic that lets you sleep at night in the face of the storm.
It is the trip through time. And it is the perfect blend of technology and art. There are no announcers. Nor is there the roar of a crowd. But when done right, architecture is the greatest show on earth.