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Living in cages made of straight lines

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No wonder so many of us lash out, hurting and killing our fellow prisoners. Our straight lines have stolen our humanity from us

ONE OF Britain’s most famous architects and designers, William Kent, is often quoted for his enduring truth: “Nature abhors a straight line.”

Kent lived in the early 18th century and worked with great architects such as Christopher Wren in an age when Britain was creating the incredible gracious homes that attract millions of visitors hundreds of years later.

Modern architects and designers seem to have forgotten – or have chosen to ignore – Kent’s immortal words. The result is that we live in an unnatural world today; a world of uncomfortable, and unnatural, straight lines.

Here in South Africa we admire the gracious curved gables of the old Cape Dutch homes and historic farms, but we continue to erect structures with all the charm and beauty of a concrete brick.

In the middle of my home town of Fish Hoek there is a simple little municipal structure that houses (I think) an electrical sub-station. It’s a plain, utilitarian building, except for the fact that there is a discreet moulded concrete drape set in each wall. Many visitors have commented on this, saying things such as: “That’s a pretty little building. What is it?” It’s an ordinary sub-station made extraordinary by four little bits of moulding.

Great expanses of housing “developments” have sprung up all over the once beautiful Cape; all of them consisting of identical “little boxes”, devoid of character, and all of them made of straight lines. Is this simply because straight lines are cheaper to design and build, or does anybody actually find them attractive?

We humans are part of nature. We love the gracious curves of trees and the sweep of mountains and valleys. We stare at the curling waves on the shoreline, we look up in pleasure at the curvy fullness of the clouds.

When we go on holiday we prefer to travel to open spaces, far from the straight rows of concrete boxes. Could this be why modern society is so sick and unhappy?

We know instinctively that nature abhors straight lines, but we surround ourselves with them. Our cities are no longer part of the natural world. They are cages made of straight lines, cramping and imprisoning us.

No wonder so many of us lash out, hurting and killing our fellow prisoners. Our straight lines have stolen our humanity from us.

Until relatively recently the Cape’s builders would add decorating mouldings and curved gables to their structures as a natural part of the way building were perceived to be. When did we decide to rebel against Nature, and why?

Last Laugh

Two young women were strolling in the rain when they came across a large frog sitting on the pavement.

“Hello, lovely ladies,” said the frog. “I’m an enchanted frog. I used to be a politician until the witchdoctor turned me into a frog. If you will kiss me I’ll turn back into a man and marry you and make you incredibly rich.”

One woman scooped up the frog and popped it into her handbag.

“Aren’t you going to kiss it?” asked her friend.

“Are you crazy? A talking frog is worth 10 times as much as a lousy politician.”

David Biggs