11 November 2008

The Titan that raises humanity's mountains

Newtonian icon. Euclidean totem. Herald of a coming monumentality. Midwife in the birthing of a new child of the skyline. Sentinel of change.

There is no decoration on a tower crane, logos and ads aside. Each bar, beam, truss, rope, jib, joint and sheave asserts its necessity. Its form is integrity made manifest. Its lines are a study in formal, elegant purity. No superfluity is allowed in its design. No compromise is permitted to its structural strength. Nothing less is expected of a Titan that raises humanity’s mountains, a giant under the command of the human mind, its tremendous power harnessed by that lore the physicists name ‘mechanical advantage’.

Where there are tower cranes, there progress hums its energy and promise. Ignored, derided, even cursed for its supposed ugliness, the crane stoically bears the insults and indifference. It suffers the slings of the vicious, whining rabble as it builds a safe shelter for them and their gross ingratitude. The sensitive soul will recognise and honour such magnanimity.

When the building’s completion approaches the final hours, down the crane comes, a felled Jurassic sauropod whose massive steel bones are taken apart in a climactic feast by scavengers in hard hats and fluorescent jackets. In a ritual enacted over and over again ever since the ancient Greeks, inventors of the crane, began edifiying the land, when its task is completed the crane is sacrificed.

Yet it will rise once more, an undying symbol of architectural creation, an immortal instrument of Man the builder.


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