By Bernie Bell
Notre Dame, York Minster, Windsor Castle, Glasgow School of Art.
Terrible images of Notre Dame – the spire, falling, broken – did remind me of the images of the burning GSA.
They are structures, which have been, or can, hopefully, be re-built, and re-filled with works produced by human hands and minds.
You make all the points Charlie – and the comparison with Grenfell Tower stands out. Loss of life.
We re-build, it’s what us humans do – we rebuild after ice ages, and after fires. It’s what we do – we adapt, and so, survive.
There is a personal memory, too. Mike and I went for a long weekend to Paris for our first wedding anniversary – and, of course, climbed up the tower, and stood and looked across Paris – a very strong personal memory. That building would have held so many of those, as well as the stone work, woodwork and art works. As with St. Magnus ( God forbid that such a thing might happen to St. Magnus), so many centuries of hopes and thoughts and prayers – and all the big human things – weddings christenings, funerals – matchings, hatchings and dispatching’s. As with the cairns and Maes Howe – our Neolithic ‘Cathedral’.
I remember the fire in York Minster, which destroyed a part of the roof, which, again, I remember standing on. The guide had to ‘park’ me there, as I couldn’t cope with the winding stone stairs. Which meant that I got the chance to stand and survey York, quietly, with real focus.
That’s the thing with these places – there’s the structure, and what it represents and holds of its time of ways of construction – then, we fill it with our works, our lives and our memories.
All things have life
A building is seen as in-animate
Stone and wood
Yet stone has music in it
and wood still lives
Then we live in it
and breathe our life into it too.
I don’t see a building as in-animate
When a structure is gone – or damaged beyond repair ( I am still hopeful for something to be done, with the remains of the GSA) – are our memories still there in some way? It’s a nice idea – and there are many tales of folk from the past, still ‘inhabiting’ places which, today, simply aren’t here – the place was there when they were there, in their time, and, sometimes, they are, somehow, still ‘there’? I don’t know – I’d like to think that something of the whole history of a place stays. I’m now thinking of Coventry Cathedral – burnt in a different way , and they kept the ruins, and worked the new building round them, so the past and the present, are, physically present.
I’m rambling. That a tendency I have, at the best of times but, in this case, it’s because I am disturbed by what has happened. We seem to be losing so many of the grand old places – and are there new places being built, of equal grandeur and power to engage/enthral? There must be – I can’t think of any, except The Kelpies, and the Angel of the North – which are a different kind of structure. Maybe that’s just personal taste.
Yes, Charlie – you make the points. Sadness, even confusion, about the loss – but – lessons to be learnt. As always. Hopefully.