Ten Pyramids

Everyone remembered them. Ten angular pyramids, each towering ten feet above the endemic zoning setbacks that define this vertical factory district. Back in 1928, the mechanized Art Deco style contrasted with the soft fur coats manufactured under their guard.

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Everyone remembered how they had been ignobly removed in some desperate and impecunious past, their severed stumps cauterized with mastic and sealed with a copper band-aid. They were leaking. It must have been leaks. Six of them had been spared (who knows why?), six halcyon reminders reflecting in the blue glass of cheap hotels. The result is a disappointing farrago; some setbacks with pyramids and some without. It would be easy to replicate the survivors and restore the facade to its original appearance. A wrong would be righted.

But they were never there. Looking closely at Henry Oser’s old, smudgy drawings it is clear that some things have changed, but not the pyramids. He meant to put them on some floors and not others. Was he inspired? Inconsistent? On a budget? There is a reason everyone remembered the pyramids where there are none; they look like they’re missing. Just to be sure, we pried off a copper band-aid. Underneath was glazed terra cotta; it never had another piece on top. 

Everyone wants to remember them. To remember how they were ignobly removed. Had the original drawings been destroyed, the microfiche illegible, or the building records misfiled in a bureaucratic black hole, we would have ‘restored’ the ten ‘missing’ pyramids. We would have congratulated ourselves for a job well done, for completing a building comprised by time. However, thanks to an assiduous archivist and diligent researcher it was hard to convince ourselves that we could put the pyramids back, or rather that we should add new ones where there had never been any. The distinction is important because it defines our intention. In this case, intention transforms the very same materials from historic preservation to historicist imitation. The intention behind design, however, is often invisible. One has to know the story. One has to remember them, the mythical pyramids, to remember how they were ignobly removed, and to remember how they were never there.

 

 

-by Adam Kaleb Poole