Tuesday, August 01, 2006

True nature 

The office in which I work spend my weekdays is a typical ultra-modern, steel and concrete and aluminium and glass affair, scoring zero on architectural merit, but depressingly high on a rudimentary sort of functionality – a plain box constructed almost entirely from unbroken horizontal and vertical lines and plain rectangular surfaces. The only non-conformist deviation from this excess of linearity is the curved circumference of the naked concrete pillars which thrust their way through each open-plan floor from foundation to roof.

Even the so-called landscaped area outside the building continues – rather unnecessarily - that strictly linear, regulated pattern. It’s as though the very space is subdivided by an invisible grid to which every tangible object must conform – everything is at right angles and formed from hard flat surfaces; even the planters containing trees and hedges and grasses. The greenery may give an illusion of life, but it feels sterile – the soil is only a few feet deep, contained in sunken boxes below which is the concrete slab roof of the underground car park.

Yet looking out of my fourth floor window across to the lower roof of the adjacent block, I can see perhaps fifty feet away, growing out of the grating of a rainwater gully running across the flat roof, that most tenacious of wild shrubs – a buddleia. Their ability to thrive in the most improbable of situations defies belief; alongside a railway line you might see a ten foot tree-wannabe sprouting out of the face of a seemingly sheer brick wall.

It is incongruous, unexpected, random, anarchic – and gloriously, defiantly alive. Even with its roots barely holding together the most impoverished crumbs of dirt to trap and hold moisture and nourishment, it’s more alive than the regimented rows of hand-planted specimens in their hand-tended beds below. If – perish the thought – my gaze should stray from my VDU out into the world beyond, at this time of year there’s a good chance I’ll spot a bee or a butterfly continuing the processes of life in this most lifeless of spots, sublimely ignorant of the precarious nature of the foothold which their nectar-supply has established for itself.

It’s curiously comforting to see how life has established itself in this sterile landscape. I really do hope no-one from facilities management is sufficiently zealous to go out there with the weedkiller spray. It’d be like losing an old friend; some days I feel as though I fit here just about as well as that buddleia. I could stretch the metaphor further, noting that in spite of the apparent unsuitability of the environment, the buddleia is nonetheless sustained and survives, to a degree, and having put down roots there, however inappropriate to its true nature, it’d have a hard time relocating now. But metaphors aren’t reality. Then again, isn’t the true nature of a buddleia to survive and grow regardless?

Back to current posts