Friday, August 19, 2005

August 13, 2005 Architectural monuments

Dear Sis~

I'm watching a program on the Discovery Channel about the building of an ultra-modern cable-stay bridge across the Charleston River in South Carolina. The bridge, now completed, is the longest cable-stay bridge in the United States, and it replaces and dwarfs two very old steel girder spans. Cable-stay bridges are the latest engineering rave; they're elegant, beautiful and very strong. Ever since I was a child I've been utterly fascinated with all types of very large construction projects (dams, bridges, skyscrapers, tunnels)and especially drawn to old stone block structures (cathedrals, castles, aqueducts, amphitheatres, bridges, buildings). Growing up, my dream was to be a civil engineer or architect because I so wanted to design and build immense structures. This desire, or interest, has always been innate and very powerful; it's just in my blood. I believe that in a past life or lives I built such structures. When I was in Italy in 1971 I used to walk the streets of Rome, Florence and other old cities (like Palermo, in Sicily) late at night, all by myself, marveling at the large and ancient structures. Rome, especially, drew me like a moth to a flame. Late at night I'd walk through the Coliseum (beautifully lit up at night) and I'd press myself against the large, cool stone blocks, as if I could go back and relive the construction. I always felt a strong urge to touch, feel and trace the contours of ancient stones and bricks. I was really at home in St. Peter's Cathedral (a basilica, actually) where you can overdose on the immense carved stonework, mostly highly polished marble, shiny as glass, and in surprising colors and hues. I was just as drawn to the engineering behind such beautiful buildings and structures, the nuts and bolts issues of how such structures were designed and built. The huge, ancient stone block aqueducts running from Rome to the water sources in the hills amazed me -a remarkable combination of form and function, and a very impressive engineering feat. The Roman-built aqueducts, some over 2,000 years old, still stretch hundreds of miles all across Europe and North Africa...Anyway, Sis, this new bridge at Charleston is a fine work of modern engineering. Still, if it lasts one-tenth as long as the Roman Coliseum, it will be surprising...

I've gotta get back to work, Sis (I'm deep into a stack of US Supreme Court decisions) so I'll mail this off with a hug. Just 34 days until our visit!

Love & Peace Bill