Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Erecting buildings

Joseph Conrad wrote lots of books about people on boats. You could say it was his thing. One of these books happens to be set in Africa, and in particular on the River Congo. This book is called Heart of darkness. Travelling up the river is, as far as I can see, a good way for Conrad to get to grips with a story set in the dense jungles of central Africa, while simultaneously sticking to what he knows best; things with keels.

Nevertheless, when I once tried out a lecture exchange with a friend of mine at uni (I went to one of her English lectures and she'd go to a maths one (she still owes me 1 maths lecture)) on the subject of Heart of Darkness, one of the girls attending the lecture felt the need to speculate that the river was actually a big phallic symbol and therefore represented the white man, quite literally, fucking Africa. The lecturer thought this was an interesting viewpoint and worth persuing.

Then a bunch of people burst through the door and proved them wrong using nothing but an axe, a chainsaw and several hockey masks.*

Phallic symbolism is rife in the arts, of course. And in architecture, it seems. Would you just look at the Gherkin! And all the other tall buildings springing up left, right and centre. Why on earth do all these men feel the need to plant huge manly cocks all over the shop?

But isn't all this, like the wayward interpretation of the river in Heart of Darkness, over-analyzing? Real estate in the City is expensive so building reasonably tall makes sense. Building very tall is attention seeking, but building an impressive and prestigious office is just about impressing clients of the company involved and showing off the company's wealth; nothing to do with the penises of the people who comission the building. What personal kudos do they get anyway. No one ever hears about them. Just the company name and the architect.

So maybe it's the architects that give the phallic-theory of towers its justification. Why do architects rush to compete for these contracts and drool at the prospect of being the winner?

Because they are some of the biggest, most visible building projects in the world, and serve to make the architect a lot of money and, possibly, a little fame. These very same architects also build stadiums, bridges and other less phallic buildings too, y'know, and make them as eyecatching as they can. The only reason they seem obsessed with building tall is that these are often the most controversial buildings, and the ones they are forced to strenuously defend.

Oh, and they have teeny tiny cocks.

*May have been a dream.

PS - I wrote this last night and it seemed coherent at the time. Oh well.

1 comment:

JL said...

I'd have to say yes, and also no.

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