For whatever reason, I’ve been stuck thinking about massive statues of the human form lately. I think a great deal of the enduring appeal of colossal humanoid statues is some kind of innate human tendency toward idolatry. Somewhere in these crazy primate brains there’s a fixation on the idea of directly building a god.
Is this how termites feel about building their mounds? Do honeybees approach their hives with the same fascination we feel when catching a glimpse of the 305 ft Statue of Liberty? Maybe if it was a functional structure…
One of the most compelling visions of colossi as infrastructural elements would be the nearly unwatchable 1997 movie Batman & Robin. Waiting for the next scene to feature a sixteen story colossus holding up a winding highway overpass was all that kept me from walking out of that one. Odd that supervising art director Richard Holland doesn’t appear to have worked as an art director since.
My assumption is that these dreams of Gotham are not reflected in real world urban design because they’re not practical (right triangles are more stable architectural elements than the human form) and don’t seem to stand the test of time all that well. The Colossus of Rhodes was felled by an earthquake. The colossus of Barletta and Rome’s bronze Nero were repeatedly repurposed and eventually used as raw materials for other projects. They won’t let me build an A&W in Thomas Jefferson’s head.
Practicalities aside, there’s something about living in an environment with a lot of epic statuary. Some kind of inspiration floating in the air, a reminder of human potential that makes a city feel more then a several billion dollar heap of brick, plastic and electricity.
Stills from Batman & Robin via Batman Unmasked