The Starbucks Experiment

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I don't know exactly when i realized this, but crossing the atrium of the National Gallery's east building is like strolling beside an indoor swimming pool. the vastness of the space makes your heels click against the floor in a way that reminds me of flip flops slapping against wet concrete. and just like water, the pale stone from floor to ceiling reflects natural light throughout the space. the north side is bordered by this funny outdoor room; it's rectangular with one long side formed by a marble wall separating it from pennsylvania ave. and the other long side formed by a glass wall that separates it from the interior of the gallery. this space was originally built for a reflecting pool, but it is now home to Roof, Andy Goldsworthy's large scale sculpture that i've been working on for the past five months (my god has it been that long?). Roof is made of slate, and the way the northern light reflects off of it into the atrium is beautifully subtle. Goldsworthy thinks that IM Pei designed the original reflecting pool exactly to bring more light into the building on this northern side, and his sculpture achieves exactly the same.

Roof consists of a series of slate domes, each one hand built without mortar, that interlock, push against the outside walls, and even extend to the other side of the glass barrier into the gallery. from the mezzanine one floor above, you can see that on top of each dome is an oculus, a black hole that reaches far down into the center. the domes have been likened to whirlpools, swirling into each other and around themselves, and indeed looking on one of these domes from above is like viewing a whirlpool from below. but walking across the atrium reminds me of water in far less abstract ways than Goldsworhty's sculpture. it reminds me of an indoor swimming pool because it literally smells like chlorine. i don't know how or why but it definitely does. it's a very surreal experience but oddly comforting as well. chlorine, no matter how inappropriate in an art museum is certainly a familiar smell. it reminds me of easier days when my main activity during the summer was to go to the pool everyday, or of slightly more complicated but still easier days in high school when i was on the swim team and spent winter afternoons sweating under water. maybe one day i'll look back on these days as a simpler time, and smelling chlorine won't remind me so much of a swimming pool as of the atrium that i walked through on my way in and out of work. i'll remember the way i always looked north on Goldsworthy's Roof to see the light reflect off the slate, and the click of my heels across the marble.

i'm not sure why i'm writing this now, except that writing it makes me feel like my life consists of swimming in a pool. just going back and forth, or worse, round and round. i don't know if it's the new year or the fact that my applications are in, or even the new shift-supervisor thing, but these feel like early days. i feel unwilling to actually get up, out of the pool, and walk forward in an actual direction, like i shouldn't have a direction just yet. i wanted to come back from San Diego very refreshed and gun ho. i made plans to start yoga, to redo my room and my wardrobe, to be more social. maybe all of this is just a more complicated way of saying that, surprise surprise, i'm not keeping my new year's resolutions. i don't know. i'm not really thinking. i'm just swimming.


At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Danielle said...

This post is your most Proustian yet...

I'll continue with the swim-team metaphore and say you're in the training-phase... building up to that moment when you're on the starting bloc, and the gun goes off, and whoops!, you're off to L.A.

Of course, the distance between the East Coast and L.A. is a bit more than 50 meters... you're gonna need all the training you can get.

At 12:31 AM, Anonymous annie said...

i really liked this post, it read like a poem. and i actually started swimming at the y bc i get a free membership through the middle school and its really relaxing. plus theres a hot tub which feels good after a long shift at sbux. also, working at the middle school is cool bc its a throwback to the days when life was ALOT simpler. we can all agree that hardy was a shitty time in our lives, but lets be honest, nothing beats the satifaction of spending hours or days trying to beat video games or playing outside (esp at the jelleff pool).


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