This architect’s recent tour of the massive construction site that is the former World Trade Center brought forth an unexpected memory: that of his first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
In both cases, despite much to see at the horizon and sky, the eye was drawn to the depths below, and the scale of the vista was so immense that it was difficult to judge distance or depth of field – almost like viewing a painted cyclorama instead of something real.
With the 9/11 Memorial scheduled to open in a few months, it’s fitting to recall the practical, fearless words of the Grand Canyon’s first American explorer, the intrepid John Wesley Powell, on the eve of his 1869 departure down the Colorado River:
We have an unknown distance yet to run,
An unknown river to explore.
What falls there are, we know not;
What rocks beset the channel, we know not;
What walls ride over the river, we know not.
Ah, well! we may conjecture many things.