The Styles of the City: Slanting

It is a rare city, town or village that rises from a flat plain. Land goes up and down. People, however, prefer things to be level. Slanted floors are annoying, especially for the bookcases and furniture. Slanted buildings tend to fall down. In the good old days you’d just build your structure however you felt like it, and the roads, sewage, and so on would accommodate you when they were installed, maybe centuries later. This first picture shows me in front of a stone hut in which level floors and square walls were a sophistication yet undreamed of.

However, once you advance to agglomerations of buildings, the zoning people begin to get picky. The city would like its roads to be level. Stepped to accommodate the grade was okay when the traffic was horses and donkeys, but it’s no good for automobiles. And therefore it’s the buildings that have to be slanty, so that the road in front can go smoothly down while the floor stays level. The main library in town shows the kind of trick architects resort to. The road goes downhill, and there are more steps added as the land drops away. Railings keep people from tripping over steps that suddenly are not there.

This is another view of the library’s frontage. A balustrade steps down as the land slopes, and they inserted benches to make it look graceful and friendly. A bug becomes a feature! If you walk around the library, which takes up the entire city block, you would see that the most downhill side is a full story higher than the opposite, most uphill side. They actually installed a slightly sunken garden there, so that there could be windows there. The building is dead level. Clever architecture hides all the adjustments.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


The Styles of the City: Slanting — 3 Comments

  1. Visually, at first, the final picture bothered me a bit. The sidewalk and the wals sloping, and the benches intrusively staying level. Then I though “No, that’s a positive feature, it accomodates people with different leg lengths equally comfortably!” I could sit at one end with my short legs reaching the ground, and my long-legged brother could sit at the other end without feeling like he’s crouching.

    In our flat area benches are always too high for some, and too low for others. This is much better!

  2. I have another picture which I didn’t post here, of a long curving bench in a fountain plaza. Because of the slope of the street the bench is three inches high at one end, and more than two feet at the other. You could sit anywhere it suits your legs, very cool. And of course the skateboard people are delighted.