To me architecture is a story. Architecture holds memories, ideas, thoughts from generations past, immortalising a snapshot of the history in which it was created. There are many ways that I could express this, but I feel that these stories are best expressed as just that: a story.
Immortal. Unchanging. Hanging, suspended in time.
I cannot move my feet my body is frozen, planted into the ground as I stand there,
staring. Roots seem to grow from my body, spreading through the ground; they hold me,
support me, like the foundations support the temple.
This place has existed for 2000 years. Longer.
I can’t comprehend it, can’t fit it into my whirling mind
the Parthenon rises from the hard ground, chiselled stone forming columns and carvings
and crumbling walls, chunks of rock lying scattered around the building. Thousands,
hundreds of thousands, countless people have stood where I now stand, gazing up at its
wonder. It is more than mere stone; this building is history itself.
I walk forward, slow, careful steps, picking my way through the rubble. It seems
ridiculous now, that I used to learn about this place in a classroom. Teachers, textbooks,
essays, exams but what does it matter? How does a classroom compare to this living
The building is a story. History is built into its very bones.
But I don’t quite understand until I reach out to touch the smooth stone of a column. Then
it hits me, overwhelming me like a wave: the Parthenon! Athens! Greece! I really am here,
in the place of my dreams. Perhaps it is just my imagination always working, always
exploring but it seems like I can almost feel the history beneath my fingers, breathing life
into the stone. This temple is a living snapshot of time, built to stand for millennia, sharing a
little of its eternal story with every person who lays their eyes on its beauty.
I look up, gazing at the sculptures above my head. They are beautiful, intricate works of
art. Someone carved those, thousands of years ago. Someone built this.
As the thought flits into my mind, it’s as if I can see them walking up the hill, tools in
hand, leaning over a carving, scraping art into stone. People, just like me, just like the other
tourists I can see moving through the city. Ordinary people, who created a masterpiece.
I wonder if they knew.
I wonder if the people who toiled over this temple, pouring their skill and time and life into
its existence I wonder if they knew that their work would stand for two and a half thousand
years. That their work would leave a remnant of themselves on this earth, long after they are
The things we build outlast us.
They tell the stories we never could.
Perhaps that is the magic of architecture.
This poem was highly commended in the Rangatahi category of the 2022 Warren Trust Awards for Architectural Writing.
Photo: Vintage postcards of the Parthenon from Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collections Online.