I’m short. I spend my life looking up at people and I don’t like it. Though I try not to look up to tall people I can’t help feeling envious of their height. They’re not superior, just lucky. Even so, the other day I read something about how people in wheelchairs often feel diminished by their chairs, not because they’re a reminder of their disability, but because they just don’t get to communicate with everybody else at eye level. It’s a devastatingly simple observation about human behaviour that I empathise with.
Though it’s not just the constant looking up at people that gets to me. It’s also that tall people can see things that I can’t. For example, I hate going to music festivals because I can never see what’s happening on stage. I get a sore neck from craning and cramps in my calves from standing on tiptoe all day and that’s not even the worst of it. One year I went to the Mardi Gras party and came away with gravel rash on my face. It wasn’t pash rash. It was the year the buff boys decided that it was a good idea to shave the hair off their shoulders to look smooth for the party. By 3am there was a wall of stubble to squeeze through. It was at shoulder height for most but at face height for moi. Involuntary exfoliation ensued.
Still, height-envy for me is not just about the view ahead, it’s about maintaining the space around you. Not just left and right, not just in front or out back. It’s about being able to see the ground you’re standing on and the sky that you’re standing under. Once people start looming in over the top of me, that’s when I start to feel there’s not enough space to go around. And that’s when I start feeling nervous.
I was thinking about this the other day while I was standing on the block of land where my future Minimalist Monument to Moi will be built. The sky was enormous that day. Completely open. The block adjacent to mine is vacant, still unsold. So the feeling of space I have there is virtually doubled by the absence of a neighbour although I know that’s a temporary feeling. Soon somebody will buy that block and more than likely build a McMansion, right up to my boundary line and as high as is deemed legal. That I can’t control.
Thankfully, I can control what I build on my own block. I can decide how much sky I let in or obscure with a building. The architects at Phorm advise me that my block falls under two possible codes: the small block or the house code. This presents me with different options when it comes to the building envelope (the silhouette) of the Minimalist Monument to Moi. It means I can either build high, straight up but set back from the boundary (small lot), or build pyramid-style in a stepped-up shape closer to the boundary but further away as it gets higher (house code). At least that’s my understanding of it.
The thing is, what if I don’t want to lose my sky? What if I want to keep this feeling of space over my head? I’m building on a very steep slope. Why can’t I build down? Why can’t I create a deck at the top of my block that cantilevers out over the abyss of the gully and hang the house upside down from the underside? The top deck, which is really the ground level, would feel so spacious without a structure on it. And I wouldn’t lose my sky.