12/04/2007

121 Exhibition Street: Inside the Geometry of the Beast



The Justice building at 121 Exhibition Street is a post-Seagram behemoth of steel and glass. These materials are particularly apt for this building since they embody the judicial principles of power and transparency. But the building is not transparent, it is faceless and exclusive, simultaneously imposing and anonymous. As shown in the picture above, on sunny days it almost camouflages itself into the skyline completely, leaving only a vaguely perceptible outline of its monstrous form. Embodying the judiciary it is invisible and yet always present.
Anyone attempting to enter the building and witness for themselves the machinations of justice will soon by stopped by the electronic gates in the entrance lobby, which keep out the proles. And so your average person's experience of the Department of Justice is a benignly authoritarian building, a set of electric gates and a uniformed guard escorting them from the premises.

Too bad, for if they were able to enter they would see that what lies inside is not a sinister cliche of power-tripping, pen-pushing quasi-Nazis, but a workforce as constrained and controlled by the geometry of this totem of justice as they are. The inside of the Justice building is an inversion of the outside.

Everything in the building is based on clean lines and the antiseptic gleam of steel. There are no Mark Rothko paintings or outlandish restaurants here, just ascetic intersections of the linear. Definite lines that express a geometry of the absolute; right and wrong, guilty and not guilty. I don't think there is a circle in the whole structure. The same forms of the right-angle occur again and again, sterile and hypnotic like motifs in a minimalist symphony. There are 36 floors but only one floorplan. It is replicated identically again and again. A worker from the 2nd floor could find his way around the 32nd without even realising he was on a different level.

The curious thing is that everyone is the slave of this aesthetic power. There is no puppetmeister in a luxury top floor office/twatpad laughing evilly; power exercises itself autonomously. Free of human-hands it resides in the lines and angles bending all to its will.

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