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IDEAS / travel

The Pantheon. Of Greatness And Deception

5 October 2014

words:  Natalie Donat-Cattin

photos:  Jian Yong Khoo

If the essence of architecture – its intrinsic and determining constituent – is empty space, every man has experienced an archetypal feeling when visiting the Pantheon. Confined in an immense space, we can never embrace its entirety. Ignorant but curious, we marvel at how such a great dome can stand. Questions whose answers lie in subtle ploys: secrets buried within the structure and the material.

The fame of the ‘Roman Cyclops’ still lies in its architectural genius, never yet been equalled. Trapped in the narrow streets of Rome, the Pantheon may have lost its power but not its charm and mystery. Legends and taboos together with mathematical and philosophical symbols mingle under the self-supporting concrete dome and beneath the alerted eye.

To receive everlasting fame, a hint of fortune and wit is necessary: qualities that are not lacking in this building. The Pantheon’s almost spontaneous conversion to Catholicism made it receive grace. With a little indulgence, all past sins have been forgiven: a small price to pay to remain intact.

The interior atmosphere of the church-temple strikes us immediately. We oscillate between light and shadow, astonishment and disbelief, illusion and reality. An intangible light descending from unfathomable heights, invades the space and dazzles us. During sunny days, we are led to confusion: the innate generosity of the sky seems to have given the Cyclops the much-desired second eye.

Too narrow sighted to appreciate the dome in its whole, the only option is to sit down, look up and slowly analyse this space.

A space like no other.

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FURTHER READING / essays, ideas, photography and more!

The Art Of Mirrors.

The power of a mirror lies in its simplicity. A single surface allowing for endless possibilities. Multiplication’s machine, illusions’ creator, reality’s extension are just some of its magical properties.

“Magic mirror, on the wall – who is the fairest one of all?”

Transcending Monumentality. Of Boullée And Kahn

Architecture is the embodiment of the arts and sciences, a complex combination which results in an ambiguous whole. What once was just a means of shelter, has evolved into a means of which to communicate and express the ever evolving necessities of contemporary society. The demands of the people coupled with the zeitgeist of the period, more often than not, precipitate a prevailing architectural style, one with which the architects of the period rally to. Two centuries apart, Étienne-Louis Boullée and Louis Kahn, through their tireless re-examination of the discipline, have established profound ideologies on the nature of architecture, which remarkably allude to common principles.

Palazzo del Lavoro. A Forbidden Land

Palazzo del Lavoro – The building stood before us imposing and abandoned. A broken glass and multiple graffiti were evidence that many before us had violated its solitude. Right through a smashed window we penetrated into the concrete soul of the building. Here, an infinite space opened in front of us: a basilica of our time, a cathedral of architecture with no god or religion, a modern days’ ruin.

Yayoi Kusama. Pumpkin Magic

Kusama Pumpkin, Naoshima – The pumpkin often has a connection with the magical world. In Cinderella, it turns into a beautiful white carriage, darting towards the dance. In the same way, it could easily be one of the strange and wonderful inhabitants of the Lewis Carroll world – out of scale, context and with no apparent purpose. If the pumpkin could talk it would ask nonsensical questions while giving absurd non-answers.

architasters / project by Natalie Donat-Cattin and Jian Yong Khoo. It is a platform for speculation and discussion, functioning as a complementary repository for their design work.