With architecture, you can time travel everyday. When you walk down the street and observe buildings and spaces, you can relive sepia-toned times and lost memories. A 17th century Italian church transports you to the grandeur of Baroque Rome, with its haunting shadows and light-filled naves. A modernist skyscraper, with its jet black spandrel glass and limestone plazas, harkens to an age when the world was sleek and the modern truly new. The architect is a perpetual historian, always diving into the past for inspiration and escape.
Like Wells’ Time Machine, architecture also allows you to travel forward in time, drawing and envisioning fantastic futures. Sant’ Elia’s Citta Nuova reimagines Italy as a futuristic conurbation of trains and planes and automobiles. Hughes Ferriss’ Manhattan nights are illuminated by crystalline forms in an amorphous black void. Today, architects produce countless vignettes and renderings, enticing clients and the wider public to dream of the world in a year, a decade, or a century. In the computer-simulated universe of coordinate systems and ray tracings, the architect time traveler can pursue a perfect but fleeting future.
The only horror for the time traveler is the present -- the real work of architecture.
The competition deadlines and repeat submissions.
The half-baked schemes and alternate futures tossed to trash bins.
The planning sessions and consultant kickoffs.
The endless redlining, the drawing and redrawing.
The raucous neighborhood meetings and hushed backroom deals.
The missing invoices and forgotten coordination.
The bright fluorescent office lights at midnight, glaring over the white pages.
The 10,000 hours of mastery, replete with examinations and interviews.
The day of project completion, seemingly drifting farther and farther away.
Until it arrives.
Because one day, the project will be complete. When the dream becomes reality - a living, breathing space, occupied by objects and furnitures and people - then all the immaculate renderings and bespoke diagrams become secondary. All the minute flaws, the 2am decisions, the missing details, and spacings gone slightly awry, becomes part of a small masterpiece in an imperfect world. In this moment of realization, the time traveler pauses, then steps out into the present. She occupies a quiet bench in a modest new house, or he marvels at the sparkling clothes and moody lighting in a new boutique. And maybe, just maybe, the architect looks up into the clear sky at a new monument of human engineering, and wonders how all the drawings have translated into a tangible object, standing tall, in a city that feels new again.
Then the time traveler steps back into the architectural time stream, and revisits old times again, and dreams of new dreams once more.