Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Superfluous Detail: Underfoot

A sidewalk grate on the Caltech campus.

Do most places go to this kind of trouble for sidewalk grates? This thing is above and--

--no--

--below and beyond.

To me, a superfluous detail is something beautiful that doesn't have to be--something that enhances the look of a functional item, just for the sake of art. This grate reminds me of Celtic art in its interconnectedness. It is medieval, serious, dark. It's artwork I can hear (the clash of metal against metal) in my imagination.

It's a delight to walk around the Caltech campus and admire the superfluous details. Be sure to look up as well as down.

32 comments:

Dina said...

Love it. It is riveting.

Mister Earl said...

Very nice! I wonder if the rivets are decorative or functional. Wouldn't have made much sense to make that with actual rivets. I wonder what is the story behind that.

Virginia said...

I"m right there with you on this one. Wouldn't it make a great design for a pin or a scarf!
V

Irina said...

Great find. It amazes and pleases when the time and effort are invested in small details.

Katie said...

Fabulous design! And I agree with V that it could be incorporated into lots of other items. Any markings on it to indicate the name of foundry? (Sorry that might be getting too geeky.) I like functional items like this that are also beautiful.

Petrea said...

Hee hee, Dina!

I don't know if the rivets are functional but it does seem like overkill, Mister Earl. Then again, so is the grate.

V, I would definitely wear it.

I agree, Irina. I see a lot of that in your Moscow pictures, too. I think it's why we like the older buildings.

Katie, maybe next time I'm at Caltech I'll get down and examine one of these more closely to see if I can find foundry details. I wouldn't mind knowing.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

This is a beautiful design and I wonder if there are many of these on campus or if it is the only one. So glad that you captured it for us!

Waiting to see what you find when you look "up."

G

Gina said...

I honestly think that one of the reasons that I chose to attend Caltech for my undergraduate degree was that it was far and away the nicest campus and buildings of any of the schools I was considering (especially when compared to dreary MIT).

I loved architecture of the "house" (dorm)that I lived in while an undergraduate. We had wood built-ins in our rooms and there was a library tucked up under the eaves of the building.

Petrea said...

Genie, if memory serves, there are several of these.

Also, we were talking about it this morning and comparing it with other fixtures on campus. If light fixtures make references to astronomical knowledge, might a grate be some sort of chemical configuration? Maybe.

Sounds lovely, Gina. And the rivalry with MIT continues.

Margaret said...

Personally, I think you have a lot of superfluous detail.

tom said...

looks roman like to me

Jean Spitzer said...

Caltech is full of beautiful details--and beautiful landscaping.

Bellis said...

I've walked over this countless times yet never really looked at it. So complicated a pattern must have been difficult to forge. Now I'm going to have to dig around to find out more about it, because the designer sure deserves some credit, doesn't he/she?

Gina, didn't know you were a Caltech alum!!!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

this is the landscape that I inhabit

Mister Earl said...

Bellis: Do you think it is forged? Looked like the real deal to me!

Petrea said...

I'm going to take that as a compliment, Margaret.

tom, that sounds fine.

I agree, Jean. I can't bring myself to call anything at Caltech "eye candy," though, can you?

Let us know what you find out, Bellis.

Nice landscape, PA.

Mister Earl, I don't know. I'd have to examine it more closely.

Petrea said...

For anyone who wants to examine this grate for themselves, if I remember correctly it's near the Winnett Center where the bookstore used to be, south of the Chandler Cafe.

Susan Campisi said...

I too see Celtic art when I look at this. I walk Tommy on the Caltech campus all the time, and I've never noticed this. You have a very observant eye.

I was disappointed I couldn't make the Hahamongna meeting last night. Did you go?

Ms M said...

Wonderful design! I think little bits of art in unusual places enhances our lives.

altadenahiker said...

I covet those great indoor heating grates. Everything was an art at one time, I suspect. Or some people made it so from time to time.

Petrea said...

Susan: Celtic/Caltech. I hadn't thought of that before your comment. But of course!
See tomorrow's post for my update on the meeting. I only had space to cover one agenda item, the dreaded Sediment Removal Plan.

Me too, Ms. M. It's one of the things I love about European cities (all two that I've visited). Pasadena does pretty well in this department.

I think you're right, Hiker. It's an old-timey idea to make every little functional item a thing of beauty. Something to be missed.

Shell Sherree said...

Functional beauty. I love it!

Steven said...

That is indeed a piece of art. I think it is hand made, piece by piece. I would like to know who made it and when it was made. Nice eye Petrea.

Petrea said...

I think Bellis will check on it for us, as she has connections in the Caltech archives (see my 1/18/11 post). Thank you, Bellis! And thank you all for your nice comments on this post.

Bellis said...

I've been told it's a Caltic design, so congratulations to Susan! Other than that, I can't find any information about it (there are three of them, outside the bookstore), but I'll keep asking.

Petrea said...

Caltic? As in Caltech medieval? (hee hee)

Nathalie said...

YES I love superfluous details - which is probably why Europe is such an enjoyable place to visit. There are so many of those here.

I love this particular one.

Petrea said...

Nathalie, I agree. Europe is full of superfluous details that make it beautiful.

USelaine said...

Gorgeous! I see now that you beat me to the bricks!

Petrea said...

Come visit and you and I will crawl the Caltech campus with our cameras.

jb said...

Recycled Mercury hood/bonnet decorations, more like it...

Petrea Burchard said...

When you and Ms. jb visit next time, we'll get Bellis to take us on a tour of the Caltech campus. It's another lovely Pasadena spot.