st. denis


“Independent of these technical considerations there remains the phenomenon that upon entering a Gothic cathedral we are seized by an emotion rarely inspired by other great works of architecture. How would it be possible to attribute the union of these two so very different perfections—that of building technology and that of architectural beauty—to a purely chance occurrence? Is it not more realistic to think that they are provoked and complemented by one another? Is it not indisputable that the work which we admire could not have existed had it not been for the beauty of the materials, the grandeur of the dimensions, the technical clarity of the whole and of the details, the love of those who built it, the unsurpassable intuitive capacity of those who determined the scheme and the basic dimensions, and, above all, that inseparable mixture of cold technology and fervid passion? And how can one perfection be separated from the other?”

Pier Luigi Nervi, Aesthetics and Technology in Building

Absolutely right.  In Paris for the next few weeks, partly trying to corral several months worth of notes and fragments into a coherent manuscript, partly hitting UNESCO for archives and photography, and partly catching up on the great cathedrals, most of which I’ve managed to miss despite finding any excuse I can to come to this part of the world.  St. Denis today (sort of trying to do them in chronological order), where the roof reminds you that Nervi wasn’t the first builder to prop up a solid roof on impossibly slender supports.  Amazing.