In Can Lis plateau and
In Can Lis, plateau and “visual life” once again appear to rule. Five separate room-like components – courtyard, kitchen and dining, living, and two bedroom buildings – are laid out on the cliff edge one next to the other to maximize the view (Fig. 4). The defining walls of the courtyard, instead of framing only the sky, are corrupted with semi-circular openings; a semi-circular table is placed in the middle of the courtyard to accentuate the view towards the sea (but now the overgrown trees). This viewfinder tendency is applied to every single room, and it MLN0128 Supplier culminates in the living room. The large semi-circular stone-built seat makes the room like a theatre setting. The stage is the sea and the horizon. The deep window alcoves poke out like eyes. But the cross section of this room is, oddly, cave-like: the ceiling soars high above the eye-like viewfinder windows (Fig. 5). Such verticality, it seems, wants to internalize the room (Pardey, 2004, pp. 17–20). A small clerestory corner opening, up against the wall, gives the textured stone wall a divine wash from the daylight (though it only lasts for 20min during the day). This heavenly light from the above, it is said, is an afterthought. Still, there is far too much glare from the Mediterranean Sea, and the unwanted attention from the architectural pilgrims. Utzon felt the urge for further retreat. Some twenty years later, he built another family villa Can Feliz on the same island further away from the sea. But the effort in reconciling the view and the room still rings true in Can Feliz. Although it may seem to have little to do with the courtyard, the problem of this conflict was already evident in Utzon׳s interpretation of the ancient Mayan temple: while the vision of the Mayans was limited in the dense jungle, the flat top pyramid plateau, in his mind׳s eye, would enable the Mayans to expand their horizon (Utzon, 1962). But then the Mayans were not unique in this instance: for any pre-modern people, vision was limited to the place. The imagination of distance afar often was helped with building a watch tower or a raised platform, which was a necessary component of a stratified cosmic model. Like many pre-modern people, there are three major planes in the Mayan cosmos: the earth, the underworld and the heaven above. The actual habit of climbing high to inspect the horizon would have been an occasional affair, for the tower or the raised platform was a sacred place. Differently put, the summit of a stratified cosmos was reserved by the pre-modern people for the symbolic connection with their gods – that is, the dialogue with heaven. Of course it also was reserved for the rulers so that the representation of their power could be seen and felt from vast distances. Utzon׳s reading of this ancient architecture was a modern imagining: he saw no difference between the horizon, privileged by the dominance of vision in modern times, and the heaven above. The ancients, alas, did not, as we moderns do, demand a visual life. The consolation gained through the devotion to their gods overrode any visual pleasure. In the same essay “Platforms and Plateaus”, Utzon, rather unexpectedly, provided a description of the platform at Monte Alban in Southern Mexico where the central part of the platform is kept at a lower level by building the step-like edges (Fig. 6). He then offered this reading: “[T]he mountain top has been converted into a completely independent thing floating in the air, separated from the earth, and from up there you see actually nothing but the sky and the passing clouds, – a new planet.” (Utzon, 1962). Such is what one may feel in a confined Chinese courtyard! The Mexican architect Luis Barragán, one of the modern luminaries in Utzon׳s time, made a fatal tweak in his famous house in Mexico City: he replaced a low parapet of wooden planks on the roof terrace, which allowed a view to the garden at the rear of the house, with a high wall, thereby ensured the supremacy of the sky, like that seen from the summit of Monte Alban. The pedantic architect even went so far to prune the overgrown neighbouring trees so that the purity of the framed sky was not contaminated by any horizontal vista (Palomar, 2011).