Dreams of Ascension | Miquel Lacasta

Visión distópica de la Torre de Babel del juego Prince of Persia
Dystopian view of the Tower of Babel from the game Prince of Persia

The act of ascending is part of a gesture that humanity has made day and night since the earth inhabits. Looking at the sky in search of answers and omens or simply be amazed by the overwhelming spectacle of a starry night are acts that are repeated as a constant throughout our lives. These minimal gestures are the gateway to the logic of the transcendent.

At the same moment when we become aware of the possibility of a transcendent dimension, the irrepressible drive to ascend without rest towards the celestial vault is activated. It is already due to the will of the astronomer to decipher the secrets of the constellations, to the belief of the priest that the signs of heaven contain auguries and describe the future or the desire to dwell physically closer to the deities, ascend both physically and spiritually It is part of the deepest part of human nature.

Throughout history, the indissoluble combination of the spiritual and the material has led human beings to populate the face of the land of constructions that, for both cultural and religious reasons, have had the main challenge to overcome . From the tower of Babel, halfway between myth and historical reality, to the cathedrals of the Middle Ages, from the porcelain tower of Nanjing in China and the minarets of the mosques scattered throughout the Muslim East to the civil towers of the Renaissance town halls, the powerful symbolism that encloses an exaggeratedly tall building, combination of technical skill, advertising claim and, sometimes, homage to God, has fascinated men since ancient times.

The constructions in height, agglutinate common wills, suppose first-rate organizational and logistical efforts, and over the years, give meaning to entire civilizations. It is evident that at the time when the old constructions were hoisted, the main will to build in height corresponded to the individual wishes of a king, magician or priest, and therefore far from a shared common vision, but it is also very true , which once erected, the tall buildings formed a common identity based on fascination.

The constructions in height not only have the power to attract travelers, merchants and foreigners, but also give the image of the strength and power of a city, a race or an entire civilization. Therefore they function as a source of ideals and religious, civic precepts or simply measure the wealth of a people.

More modernly, tall buildings give urban structure, mark milestones in the landscape of cities and favor the construction of collective identity. In the more or less uniform mesh of a city, the buildings in height have a vocation of centrality, that is, they clearly and without option identify the mistake, the area or the place where we can talk about the city center, and automatically They become a measuring stick. How far or near one is from a cluster of tall buildings is exactly the measure of how far or near one is from the center.

In the American cities, especially in the North American ones, the grouping of tall buildings, throws the message of the financial and industrial power of the city. The typical American downtown, builds an accurate imaginary, which relates the city to the acquired power. This is so clear that even today we know how to identify cities from their skyline, that is, from the sky line that usually draws a low height on the periphery and a high concentration in the center. Height has always been both a claim and a declaration.

In contrast, the European cities, more uniform in their urban fabric, have used the height to mark the landmarks in the landscape that identify accesses and gates to the city. Even today, certain urban plans, try to mean with one or several tall buildings, certain points of access to the cities and tend to spread the height of the buildings in different strategic points of the city.

The history of high-rise buildings, subject to human drive to ascend, to corporateize the dream of ascension, have left and will continue to leave the trail of an ambitious, technically bold and physically risky will of the human spirit.

Be that as it may, ascending, looking up, touching the sky with the tips of your fingers, has been permanently present in the spirit and energy of humanity. To ascend becomes an attempt, in the long run useless, but always necessary, to transcend the flesh to reach the spirit. We do not usually realize that transcending is, in fact, dying and we seek to anticipate the overcoming of our carnal condition by elevating immense buildings to the sky, hoping to obtain the forgiveness of the gods or the opportunity to meddle in their affairs. Who knows.

The economic context of some areas of the planet may suggest that large buildings belong to the past. While it is true that many buildings have been parked by the crisis, we should neither demonize nor think that the phase of the tall buildings has been forgotten. Moreover, we should not be tempted to demonize height. Building in a concentrated way and in height brings compactness, density and complexity to urban fabrics. The three conditions above are the guarantee of a balance between the urban ecosystem and the natural ecosystem. A separate case is the fact that certain operations at height, poorly executed and, above all, poorly planned, are the product of shameful speculative interests. That should not overshadow the advantages, I would even say, the need to build in height.

In short, by luck or misfortune, it seems inevitable, as if it were an order impregnated in the genes, that humanity follows and will continue to raise increasingly high constructions. And, deep down, we are incapable of suppressing our drive to one day live next to God.

Soon we will ascend again.

Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, april 2013

Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.


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