By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Time is the ultimate architect of change and understanding

A calm sea prevents all perception of distance.Points of reference are denied and our humble guess is worthless.A calm sea holds all the space that can be imagined until a sea mist returns us to a measured view.

An expanse of sky, a relentless expanse without a cloud interruption, only a fading shade of duck-egg towards its edges.

A faint horizon that barely completes the line between air and water.A sense of sensual deprivation.

Minimalism of this nature is frightening, and ultimately brings on sleep to counter this unwanted emotion.

A rock of rugged ferocity is reduced to a soft monotone at 6.30am. Its elegance is a charade, a beckoning to the innocent to throw their still sleeping bodies onto its apparently forgiving surface.By midday, sharp shadows draw a truer picture of an uninhabitable jarring grain that would shred the skin off any poor soul looking for solitude.By evening, this monster reverts to its deceptive self - the lie behind the beauty.

Trees punctuate most landscapes like random commas and colons.A single tree in the Fens sucks in the eye like a selfish child demanding attention.The 10 million olive trees of Corfu, which give the island the appearance of a dusty green mattress, were planted by the Venetians to ensure ready supplies of oil.They then felt the need to texture this landscape with towering cypresses, ostensibly for their supply of masts, but really, I think, to cast long shadows over the olive canopy.

They offer a pointed relief to the sea of dusted eau-de-Nil.

The moon rises a vivid orange as it reflects the red glow of a descending sun.

A wind tempers the heat as though it had emerged from the centre of a softly chilled peach.The flat calm of the sea is disturbed and former reflections convert themselves into patches of ultramarine.The horizon returns as a relentless straight line sharply defining your visual territory, and the status quo is disturbed.

In spite of these natural phenomena, the whole is overlaid with a presence of history.

It was here, for instance, that Odysseus was shipwrecked. In BC 303 the island was sacked by the Spartans, in AD 562 it was raided by the Goths, and in 1080 conquered by the King of Sicily.This place has been taken and retaken by so many, over such a long period of time, that its raw nature is not uncontaminated. It passed through French, Russian, Turkish and British hands, until in 1867 it was ceded to Greece.Even then, both the Italians and the Germans raided and occupied it during the Second World War.

The place where I am sitting has no architecture and yet time has given it meaning that cannot be escaped. It is almost impossible in Europe to escape the effects of time and human activity.Time is the ultimate measurement that allows us to understand the nature of our existence, and without it we are reduced to a series of linked monuments that cannot be understood.

In moments of amnesia we are reduced to the status of animal.Our collective, individual and evolving memory, which is the core of our culture, is sadly marked by violence, greed and pestilence, combined with a resistance to change that allows us to continue simply making more sophisticated mistakes.We gloss over them and, as in the apparent perfection of a calm sea, we discover, if we look carefully, a horror that gives us no measure or perspective.

I pray for a constant wave.

WA, from a rock in Corfu

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

The searchable digital buildings archive with drawings from more than 1,500 projects

AJ newsletters