Monday, May 11, 2015

Architecture According to Pigeons

Yes you read that right! Pigeons indeed!

Think about it. Pigeons are everywhere. They don't soar high up in the skies like hawks and eagles, and are not earth-bound either. In fact they are built to fly just high enough to be able to land on most man-made buildings and perch up there. So why not view some famous works of architecture through their eyes?

Our winged narrator from London, Mr Speck Lee Tailfeather, starts by introducing himself and tells us the story of symbiosis of our two species, albeit not always a pleasant one. He says he wants to set the record right - they are not necessarily pests, and would like to take us on a journey to nineteen structures from a bird's POV. A bird's eye view, in other words.

Mr Tailfeather heads south to Canterbury Cathedral, a towering structure first built in the 6th century, and the seat of the Church of England ever since. He talks about why a cathedral is built the way it is, the history of this particular place of worship and also a snapshot of 21st century life around the place.

He then flies straight over the Channel to Eiffel Tower. The Parisian skyline fascinates him and he talks about the city's past and present, smoothly weaving in the story of Gustav Eiffel's masterpiece. He also visits the Pompidou Centre which is an 'inside-out' building - all the staircases, plumbing, service conduits are outside the building!

After stopping to admire a medieval church in Eastern France, he heads to Barcelona. And you guessed it, he stops atop La Sagrada Familia! Having recently been there, I can completely relate to the awe this work-in-progress evokes from our speckled friend.

On to Venice and to the many wonderful architectural gems this watery warren offers, like San Giorgio Maggiore. My own memories of this place are centred around a beautiful old church near the Grande Canal, where we were lucky enough to attend a concert by a string quartet. Never has Vivaldi's Four Seasons been played in a more appropriate setting!

Mr.T now heads to Rome. How can you go to Italy and not go to this absolutely stunning city?! In my opinion, the entire place is a museum. Every street has something fascinating to gawk at. Our friend tells us about the Colosseum and its gory past.

He now takes a break from all that flying and decides to take a lesson on bridges. Various types, with examples. The civil engineer in me wishes we had this book back in the B.Tech. days. Bet Prof Kalyanaraman would have completely fallen in love with it!

The next leg of our journey takes us to the 'mysterious mathematical miracle a.k.a The Great Pyramid of Giza', and to the Sphinx.

On to India, because how can you ignore that 'tear on the cheek of time' as Tagore described it, when you are talking about architectural marvels?! It is the one man-made structure that you can describe as 'beautiful', so perfect are the proportions of its different parts. Tailfeather's reaction is exactly the same as countless visitors to the Taj - whether it is visiting heads of state or the common tourist - of open-mouthed wonder.

We then head north to the Great Wall of China, and then to Japan to rather quirky church - one I'd never heard of, the Church of Light. Simple concept but so brilliant!

Further east to the Sydney Opera House or the 'Hungry Beaks Hall' as Tailfeather calls it. Here too I read facts about this structure that I did not know of. Often the back-stories of places make it even more interesting!

Over and across the Pacific, and you land on the Americas. First stop Brazil. Next a lesson about the various skyscrapers that the continent is famous for, and a comparison with others from around the world. Then to the unusual 'Fallingwater' in Pittsburg, the Chrysler building in New York and finally the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA.

Having covered the entire globe, Tailfeather bids us farewell with a parting gift - a few more pages of facts about the buildings we have covered. These pages are like a synopsis of sorts and make it a complete book.

The author Stella "Pigeon Whisperer" Gurney's narrative is friendly and is bound to evoke chuckles and guffaws, and at the same time it is packed with facts. The illustrations by Natsko Seki are a clever juxtaposition of photographs and watercolours and CAD drawings, with cartoons and speech bubbles. This quirky book will make a wonderful gift to anyone - child or adult.


wordjunkie said...

Sounds lovely.. Any pigeon that can appreciate Falling Water is a pigeon worth knowing! Thanks for the intro, Chox!

Sheela said...

Thanks, Choxie! The younger child is very much into landmarks - natural and man-made - and loved this book!

Choxbox said...

WJ: I hadn't heard of Falling Water before I read it in this book. Have you been there? Must be such an amazing place!

Sheela: David Macaulay's books - he will love them! The ones we have include Cathedral, Underground and Castle. He has authored many more, each in absolutely fascinating detail.

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