Anti-gravitation Structures

Everything on this planet is drawn towards the earth, regardless of whether they are

living creatures or inanimate objects. In the course evolution, aquatic organisms

crawled onto land and their fins evolved into legs. These creatures walked on four legs

because that is the best way to support the body's weight against gravity. However

humans stood up and began to walk on two legs.  The advantage of being bipedal is

that it frees up both hands at all times.  The human skeleton evolved vertically, defying

the force of gravity, forming the body that we now know. The anti-gravitational structure

of the human skeleton was completed.

With the advance of civilization, mankind took an interest in challenging gravity with

architecture as well, constructing taller and taller buildings such as the Tower of Babel

and pyramids for example. The oldest known wooden structure in the world is the five-

story pagoda at Horyu-ji, built more than 1,300 years ago. A pagoda is a facility that

contains the cremated remains of the Buddha, which are usually kept in underground

stone chamber.  The sole purpose of the tower is to resist gravity and stand tall towards

the heavens; it serves no other function. So the ability to overcome gravity came to

symbolize power.

The second-oldest pagoda is the east pagoda of Taima-dera in Nara. It is believed to

have been built during the Tempyo Period (710-794). The structure was completely

dismantled and repaired in the 35th year of Meiji (1902).  Any structural materials that

were found to be unsound, including the original materials from when the building was

first constructed, were replaced with new materials. Miraculously, those old structural

materials have recently resurfaced. My heart went out to this wood, which showed signs

of supporting the weight of more than a thousand years of time.

Gazing at these structural relics every day inspired me to photograph the east pagoda

of Taima-dera. The pagoda was constructed using masugumi, a technique in which

structural elements interlock, dispersing the weight. These complex joints of the Nara

period are simple yet sturdy, supporting the building against the force of gravity.

It brings to mind a statue of Atlas supporting the heavens, and I found that beautiful.


- Hiroshi Sugimoto