I want to contrast the bright fall colors from my last post with the broad spectrum of colors that can originate from different types of light sources used by humans every day. Where better than the neutral-colored stone of the Cathedral of Learning? Magentas, greens, warm yellows: emission and reflection can both offer a rich array of photons.
On a cloudy day, the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh has a softness to its stone exterior. (Its interior, as I’ve shown in the past, is equally stunning.) The sense of scale to the image (and the distortion of the wide-angle lens) can play tricks on your mind, making the whole scene seem smaller than it really is. To get a feel for the imposing/soft contradiction, concentrate on those improbably small revolving doors. They must be human-sized, right?
The use of space, the precision and repeated arches with their perfect alignment, makes the Cathedral of Learning pretty intimidating (but also even more beautiful.)
The Cathedral of Learning, like most Neo-Gothic buildings, is mostly an exercise in symmetry. I’m all the more fascinated, then, by the little nooks and crannies that eschew this symmetry in favor of their own localized logic. This little bench-and-fireplace alcove, with its overlooking balconies and hexagonal lights, sets itself apart. I can’t help but think it’d look drastically more inviting and charming with a couple of big, woode benches pulled up to the fire. Perhaps they were missing because this was June, and nobody needs a fireplace in Pittsburgh in June.
Spending an afternoon wandering the labyrinthine corridors of the Cathedral of Learning renders me literally impressed–feeling the weight of knowledge and Neo-Gothic architecture on my mind. The symmetry, detail, and even the height all produce an overwhelming impression. Evidently, the effect was a bit more pronounced in the case of the gentleman at lower left. Is there anything more quintessential of the current age than slouching and checking a cell phone in the presence of such beauty?
The Cathedral of learning is just as dramatic on the outside as the inside. The Neo-Gothic lines and the oppressive cloud cover of an oncoming thunderstorm make for a feeling of significant foreboding. I can’t help but imagine that the building was designed for some sinister, supernatural purpose, and that we might need to call in some experts to fix it.