Can it be that the Old Kingdom’s five-century run didn’t end, that it was just lying in wait to be noticed again? How else to explain the growing number of buildings shaped like tetrahedrons?
Granted there are no pharaohs entombed in these modern monoliths, but if the advent of pyramid-shaped building continues, Egypt will lose its near 80 pyramid distinction. The latest pyramidal configuration to rise, called Via 57, has risen between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues on Manhattan’s West Side.
A sloped roof structure with only two sides of equal length, Via 57 is more of an isosceles right triangle than the equilateral triangles of the ancients. But with Via 57 taking up almost an entire city block – some 800 feet – it can stand with the Pyramid of Giza with its base of 756 feet.
And as this column reported last year, Paris is also building a pyramid and reportedly bigger than the Great Pyramid by 600 feet. To be known as the Triangle Tower when completed in 2018, it will be an all glass and house a 120-room hotel and 70,000 square feet of office space on the city’s south-western fringe in the Porte de Versailles neighborhood.
Even Egypt is getting back to its basics. As noted here before, the Old Nile begats are planning to construct a skyscraper modeled after its iconic structures. To be called the Zayed Crystal Spark, it will rise 49 stories in Sheikh Zayed City, a suburb of Greater Cairo in the province of Giza, and consist of two pyramids – one tall (taller than the Great Pyramid) and slim, and the other broad and short.
Of course, the fascination with Egypt was already far along in the time that Moses saw it. Artists began romancing the age-old land after Napoleon’s campaign in 1798 made it widely known. “Bonaparte Before the Sphinx” by 19th century French painter Jean-Leon Gerome signals the spell that the ancient civilization cast. All you see is the great Sphinx, despoiled by time, but still haughty and mountainous, dwarfing the French emperor/general, reducing him to a speck in the boundless sand.
Apparently, the limitlessness of the place and the stillness of its netherworld of tombs matters. Given that our visual world doesn’t hold still and that electronic images storm our eyes and our peace, Egypt, one of history’s most long-lived civilizations – rootedness incarnate – seems to make for a logical draw.
Maybe that’s why so much of Egypt shows up in America’s culture. One of the great pyramids, Egypt’s massive funerary structure, is on our dollar bill. The obelisk, monumental four-sided stone shaft tapering to a pyramidal tip – cult symbol to the sun god of the Nile peoples – is our Washington Monument.
Given that the pyramids of old stood for the notion of eternity, you’d think that architecture would quit right angles altogether and get with the program.