Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Poetics of Man Cave

One's Paris room, inside it's four walls, wrote Paul Claudell, is a sort of geometrical site, a conventional hole, which we furnish with pictures, objects and wardrobes within a wardrobe. The number of the street and the floor give the location of our conventional hole, but our abode has neither space around it nor verticality inside it. The houses are fastened to the ground with asphalt, in order not to sink into the earth. They have no roots and, what is quite unthinkable for a dreamer of houses, sky-scrapers have no cellars. From the street to the roof, the rooms pile up one on top of the other, while the tent of the horizonless sky encloses the entire city. But the height of the city buildings is a purely exterior one. Elevators do away with the heroism of stair climbing so that there is no longer any virtue in living up near the sky. Home has become mere horizontality. The different rooms that compose living quarters jammed into one floor all lack one of the fundamental principles for distinguishing and classifying the values of intimacy.

If this is Parisian living then what in God's name is Hong Kong? Gaston Bacelard's 'Poetics of Space' hasn't been the lightest holiday reading, but passages such as the above do have some resonance. On the one hand, I rather enjoy living on one level with no stairs to run up as you realise you left your jumper in the bedroom on your way out the door. On the other, I do miss the concept of cellar retreats and man cave hideaways. Intimacy is one thing, but identity is another. Perhaps this is at the root of the true meaning of metrosexuality?