Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Time and the River Flowing: Buildings, Snow, and Climate Change

A quiet interlude in a very busy week.

It is the noon break in the ERDC hearings and after a quick sandwich with other freelancers, I go back up to the 16th floor of the Palais de Justice where the hearing room is, and find a corner by a window to get some work done. No computers are available, so I lean against the wall next to one of the floor to ceiling windows and pull out a notebook to write the old fashioned way.

But outside it is snowing lightly. A bigger storm is forecast for tonight but now the temperature is around freezing and the snowflakes dance on the other side of the window. Snow covers the flat roof of the old Palais building (built in the 1920s) across the street The 15 glass pyramids which cover the skylights—like the Louvre’s pyramid in miniature—look pale green in the light, while the 16 Greek columns across the façade are several shades grayer than the snow on the sidewalks.

The “new” Palais (completed in 1971) is faced in marble whose intricate patterns I have never noticed before. But how long the panels will stay in place is a question; already the joints between three panels outside this window have begun to chip. Who is going to notice this evidence of passing time, up in the cloud sas it is? When will the windows—cold to the touch on this relatively mild winter afternoon—be retrofitted with panes that provide better insulation?

Oh dear, environmental thoughts intrude. I push them aside, because there are some words that have to be put down immediately. Yet, I can’t help noticing that the river, flowing at the bottom of the slope beyond the old Palais, is full of floating ice. Fifty, even 40 years ago it would have been frozen solid at this time of year.

Oh yes. Time and the River Flowing. We have changed things, haven’t we?

1 comment:

Jack Ruttan said...

I thought the Palais was one of the uglier buildings around. Kind of the brutalist 1960s style copied by the Parthenais Prison near where I live, now softened by green glass.