Monday, March 24, 2008

Stairs, Heaven and Men

I don’t know what it is about stairs that make them so fascinating. I like looking at them, especially street stairs in old towns or villages with narrow oblique roads. I don't know why. Maybe because I grew up in a town where there’s this long stair leading to a lake: going down is a breeze, but going up is such a feat, so as kids, I and my friends always turn it into a race.We even have this game where a flight stairs is necessary: I don’t remember the name but it’s like some sort of twister game with the stairway serving as your mat or game board.

Anyway, I believe this interest of mine in stairs is shared by many.Probably because a stair represents the ups and downs of life. Or perhaps it prompts us to see things on a different plane, which by the way is true: the perspective of things varies with the level of step we are standing on.Or simply because it entices human curiosity--- it invites us to take the "path" and see for ourselves what is at the end of it, or in this case, what is at the bottom or top of it.

I would like to think that even ancient human civilization is preoccupied with this construction/architectural feature as shown by their stair-like towers --- the ziggurats of the people of the Mesopotamian valley, the pyramids of the Egyptians and the pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica, the ancient Hindu temples of Cambodia and India. It is my conjecture that this interest in building sky-reaching infrastructures are not only for the purpose of being used as royal tombs or temples… or as indications of the greatness and splendor of their reign… but is also a manifestation of needing and wanting to reach the heavens, to join the Gods and from that high place, survey their kingdom. And the means to arrive at that elevated place is through a flight of stairs. Hence, stairs become a symbol of man’s movement to a higher sphere Even if we don’t want to be philosophical about it, the word “stairs” or “ladder” has made its way in the English language to mean socio-economic-cum-status mobility --- hence the terms “social climbing” and “climbing the corporate ladder”. I'm not a socio-linguist, but I guess there's some truth in this.

Turning the hands of time to the 16th century, the use of stairs as an ornamental, symbolical and functional construction design is likewise seen in many castles (well, at least in renaissance France). For these grandiose abodes, the stair is one of the focal points of interest. They serve not only as a means of access to the higher or lower levels of the chateau, but also as a great piece of architectural work --- a showcase of grandeur and excellent craftsmanship. A classic example is the openwork staircase at Chambord--- the largest castle in the Loire valley. This particular stair consists of two generously decorated interlaced spiral stairs designed in such a way that two people going on opposite direction can go their respective ways without meeting. Moreover, it is the “navel”, the pivot by which the whole caste was conceived and designed.

And speaking of the double spiral staircase, it reminds me of the structure of DNA: a double helix. I know it sounds quirky, but as I see it, the "steps' are represented by the base-pairs and the parallel 'balustrades' are the sugar and phosphate bond groups. Sssssh, but perhaps, Leonardo da Vinci (who’s reputed to have designed Chambord) had already some notions about it *with a conspiratory twinkle in my eyes* After all, he was also a botanist and an anatomist, among his other accomplishments (remember the Vitruvian Man: the two superimposed figures of a naked man with his arms and legs extended inside a square and a circle?).

Errrrr, do I sound like something out of a historical mystery fiction? Uh-oh, I guess I have to stop giving a free leash to this bizarre thoughts of mine. This is just a wild theory anyway *winks*. In any case, I find it poetic that the staircase --- the heart of Chambord castle, has the same form as the DNA. They both are the keystones, the crux, the “holder” of something intricate, impressive and grand: the staircase for the majestic Chambord the DNA for distinct, varied complex life forms.

Well, probably, my assumptions and views are far-fetched… once more, my sentiments and thoughts run ahead of me *lopsided grin*. It's just that since I'm talking about stairs, my mind seem to be treading its own "stair" --- each step brings me to a different perspective or meaning of things. Anyway, whatever explanations, observations or interpretations there are about stairs, I know certain things to be true: I like staircases, I prefer sitting on the steps rather than leaning on the banister, especially with a good book, and I find that reaching the top of a really long flight of stairs in a steep incline without breaking a sweat is small triumph to be chirpy about *wide grin*.


Borski and Nai said...

hi..very nice shot..beautifully captured! truly! the flowers are on bloom! thanks for visiting the site always..happy blogging!

lareine said...

thanks borski and nai! i hope i was able to do justice to the flowers (because they are far more beautiful when you see them with your own eyes:))

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