I was contemplating the soullessness of the Shard again last night, London’s ‘warning sign of disease’ as Jonathan Jones put it – the disorder being environmental, aesthetic and economic disproportion.
Its straight lines heading in one, dreary direction. Up. Its growth for growth’s sake, the ‘philosophy of the cancer cell’. Like a derivative work of conceptual art, it has one message – size – that you get at first glance and, by choice, would never particularly want to see again.
Size is offered as architectural interest, sheer scale as a prompt to curiosity. But it isn’t at all remarkable in buildings, and so there’s only one way to go: even bigger.
I thought on. That is the disease of our times. I upgraded my mobile just to have more memory, fooled into thinking that 5 gigabytes will inject more excitement into my life than 2. Or there are the headlines panicking as economies flat line, as if growth of itself would precipitate spontaneous outbreaks of human happiness.
The Shard seemed like a monument to a lack of surprise at life – genuine surprise replaced by a fetish for new, bigger objects, gizmos. As I looked at its acres of repetitively blank glass, desperately trying to catch a reflection of the city so as to make its surface look interesting, I felt my senses depleting, my body disappearing.
Then, the sight of a London plane tree, beginning to yellow with autumn, waving in tune with the strong evening wind. Thank you. It told me that I was, in fact, alive.
(Image: Richard Fisher)