For the first time, I see it from a birds-eye view: rectangular blocks, slatted open like a KitKat, partitioned by a thin metal ladder, sliced thinly by lines of high-dwelling algae and moss. Next to it a four-pronged, Neo-Gothic cuboid emerges, out of place.
The Reg is where I spend most of my days, studying and sipping at bitter coffees. I’m familiar with the ornate detail of the brown, triangulated ceiling patterns and the rolling wheels of the stepstools that clunk down like a stamp when you clamber on them to reach for a book in the stacks. The long, narrow route to the study room in the East Asian Collections is one I step by heart — yet the outside of the Reg slips past my fingers.
Architecture is an elusive creature by nature. I can’t see it because I’m inside it; I can’t understand it because I’m outside it, physically and metaphorically; it’s a photograph of a building elsewhere where I am not; it’s everywhere so I forget to notice it.
In art-viewing, there’s always a moment of stepping back where the viewer says, Okay, let me take all of this in. A few meters back, situate it against a white wall, reorient myself to the world again in light of this new piece to look at. There’s no such moment in architecture. Infinite new angles and perspectives but none all together. What is an architectural piece, when it crosses the threshold of reality into the holding-space of my mind?
In this light, the blocks cast diagonal shadows on each other, obscuring the lines of algae. In my mind’s eye, I see the algae streak down the outer walls, wrapping around the building, all the way to where the concrete cubes that make up the Reg emerge from the ground, out of place next to thin, towering figures.