Monday, July 07, 2008

Weights and measures

Near where we are staying in Berlin is the romantically named Heavy Load Testing Body. Essentially it is an imposing solid cylinder of 12,360 tons of concrete set on top of a smaller cylindrical concrete base. This heavy hunk of grey matter was created to test whether the site set aside for the gigantic triumphal arch Albert Speer had on the drawing board would be able to withstand this kind of weight. As there was a settlement of only 19 inches it was all go until other matters intervened. We had another physically memorable experience with mass and weight when we saw Richard Serra’s Berlin Block for Charlie Chaplin, a cube of steel impaled, on a slight angle, into the surface of Berlin’s New National Gallery’s concrete deck. Is Richard Serra interested in weight? You might say so. “"Weight is a value for me, not that it is any more compelling than lightness, but I simply know more about weight than lightness and therefore I have more to say about it, more to say about the balancing of weight, the diminishing of weight, the addition and subtraction of weight, the concentration of weight, the rigging of weight, the propping of weight, the placement of weight, the locking of weight, the psychological effects of weight, the disorientation of weight, the disequilibrium of weight, the rotation of weight, the movement of weight, the directionality of weight, the shape of weight." (Richard Serra, 1988)

Images: Top, Heavy Load Testing Body by Albert Speer 1941. 21 meters diameter x 14 meters above ground and 18 meters below ground. Bottom, Richard Serra’s Berlin Block for Charlie Chaplin 1978