The ego of architects makes them want their craft to be the world’s oldest (no offense meant to other occupations), to the point of claiming a lineage that goes back not only to Imhotep, the deified pyramid builder, but even to God, who after all, in a double egocentrism, is The Great Architect of the Universe. This extraordinary book traces the line not back to God, but almost.
Parra’s approach is always baroque. Doubly so here, because it connects as much with the tradition of early architectures and their mythical-poetic genealogies as with the tradition of collections of visual references. While the author links up with the former by demonstrating that the Ark was not so much a ship as a floating building containing architecture’s elements and problems in embryonic phase – so that Noah was less a prophet-sailor than the first architect ever – he ties up with the second by making an evocative presentation of nearly 200 images, from miniatures in medieval manuscripts to neoclassical drawings through sketches, paintings, and engravings by the indispensable likes of Cranach or Kircher, who wrote the first systematic study on Noah’s Ark
The result is a tome so beautiful to the eye and a narrative so intricately plotted as to be organized with theatrical taxonomy in three parts and forty sections that read like a pristine bestiary of architecture – the one which, with all species aboard, saved us from catastrophe. This image of the Ark on the water cannot be more relevant if the purpose is to think architecture in Anthropocene times.