During this year’s midsummer days, I find myself climbing up a spiral walkway inside the glass dome at the top of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, thinking that the person who designed this incredible pinnacled roof to the house of the German Parliament is definitely someone with no ordinary vision.
A friend of mine from India, Raj Kumari, who is now over 80 years old had invited me to accompany her to Berlin. When she travels, she requires a companion to assist her and I was happy to oblige, also because I have never been there and it had recently been cropping up in various conversations, like a tender calling to the place.
For a while now, I have been tentatively searching a suitable location to erect my Circle of Immortality art piece. Now that I have exclusively written about its meaning in a book called, ‘The Pyramid Spiral, Dance of the Five Elements’, I feel that it is ready to go out there and speak its truth, not just as an ordinary piece of installation art, but as a central structure to a piazza, square or platz in a large town or city. Several people from different sides of the world have mentioned Berlin, a cosmopolitan metropolis with an optimal ‘nouveau’ style approach to art and architecture. What with a glass dome containing spiral pathways sitting at the top of the German seat of government, my Circle of Immortality art piece would certainly not be out of place there!
Some time beforehand, I had contacted a friend, Wolfgang, who lives in Hamburg. I had also met him at the Kailash conference in Bulgaria earlier this year, along with Marina and Irina. By email, I ask him if he would like to join me and Raj Kumari in Berlin and also mention that I am interested in placing my art piece somewhere in the city.
With an efficiency peppered with punctiliousness, he got onto it with incredible detail and style, contacting several people in the academic and Buddhist dharma communities regarding my project, mapping out a route that we could follow during an afternoon tour of the central area of the city, the highlight of the day being a visit to the dome of the Reichstag, which would have to be booked in advance. And with eagle eye precision, after established connections in the city gave him some feedback, his tour also included visiting several potential sites for the erecting of the Circle of Immortality art piece.
Sitting on a bench in a walled-off garden, in front of us a green rectangular patch of grass attached to the backside of the Department of Philosophy of Berlin’s ‘Humboldt University’, the three of us discuss different points regarding its placement. Students of Philosophy here at the university may actually intensely contemplate its meaning. It would also be safe from vandals in this courtyard. But would that be confining it to too small a position in the world? Sometimes ‘less is more’, but does it want to speak louder than this? As its patron in charge, I know that I am not ready to make this decision yet.
During the debate, Raj Kumari brings up the topic of Auroville, in Pondicherry, South India. She had been impressed with the spherical building covered with circular golden geodesic panels, the Matrimandir, whose foundation had been laid in the 1960’s and was only completed in the early years of this century. My husband and I also visited this brain child of a lady known as ‘The Mother’, student of Sri Aurobindo – an Indian saint of enormous repute, in 2012.
Inside the Matrimandir, the space is dimly lit, lending a mysterious atmosphere and silent experience to the place. We ascend to an area at the top, a nearly noiseless, spiraling journey upon a spongy white carpet to an inner chamber where you meditate on an optically perfect glass globe in the centre of the room. When a woman in our group persistently coughs during the moments of ‘meant to be absolutely silent’, she is urgently removed from the meditation space.
I don’t think that Foster had anything to do with the design of the Matrimandir, but it’s a good example of creating a spiritual or rather ‘invisible’ flow of energy through a building, to or from a ‘top’ or ‘centre’. Not belonging to any sect or religion, the place invites people from all over the world to live there in harmony and peace together. Does it work? Who knows? It’s a haven for those who believe in Utopia and perhaps this microcosmic world faction is but an example of the inherited sense of community and sharing with others at large that rules human history.
Having returned from these vapours of India, we then pass by the Brandenburg Gate on our way to the Reichstag building, producing our passports to validate our reservation. This is not going to be an easy climb into the top of the dome, the last part of which is on foot. Raj Kumari opts to use a wheelchair.
Foster not only designed a place of extraordinary beauty, mystery and openness here, but the dome’s functional service to the overall building as an open ventilation system lends a perfectly practical meaning to the place. Lying back on the benches underneath the circular space open to the sky at the top, one almost senses the amount of energy that this funnel-like shape is drawing into the building, an invisible spiral force whirring down into the place of meeting of the Bundestag, the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, empowering it with cosmic vibes… “No wonder Germany is one of the most successful countries in Europe!” I think to myself, with incredulousness.
Wolfgang pushes Raj Kumari’s wheelchair up the spiral walkway while I photograph its every angle. As in the top third, the crown cap of the pyramid known as the ‘Palace of Peace and Accord’, in Astana, Kazakhstan – (also Foster’s design), here, there are also two spiral staircases, one carrying people up and one, down. In both places, these staircases never meet, but harmoniously entwine around the edge of the building, hugging its sides. In the case of the Reichstag in Berlin, the winding passageway is circular and one can see the whole city from here through the glass material; parks, administrative buildings, river, towers, churches, synagogues, the Holocaust memorial. In Astana, the spiral walkway squarely turns along walled edges packed with plants, exotic and symbolic in shape. Squares and circles, this is the interconnecting story that started me on the route to build the Circle of Immortality.
Unknowingly so, my first encounter with Foster’s work had been in London just before my trip to Berlin. Wandering through the City of London, where the most prestigious banks, corporates and multi-nationals maintain skyscraper presence, I stop to look at a marvelous, dazzling building rising with elegance and prestige into the sky, later finding out that this, the ‘Gherkin’, is a work of Foster’s.
I suspect that coming into direct contact with the renowned British Architect sitting at the head of his game, is not so simple, at least not through ordinary channels, but I trust that the ‘three times’ connecting law will have its own way of dealing with the situation. No need to actively do anything right now, except follow and engage in the sequence of events leading to a result.