The Solarium

Heliopoli_Full_EX38The Solarium is the most cheerful structure found in Heliopoli thus far. In it, you may take a sun bath.

The Solarium has no roof. Its structure, however, is nevertheless engaged in what those who are involved in architecture refer to as “defining space” or “creating space.” It is, in itself, a “space.” When people come to the Solarium, they use the phrase “this space” — “Look at this space” and “What we would like to do for this space….”

Often, weather forecasters will say, “We have sunshine on tap for tomorrow.” This is nonsense. How can sunshine be “on tap”? One imagines pulling a beer tap in a bar to release an oozing blob of brilliant golden light. But in the Solarium it is understood. One can very well imagine sunshine being “on tap” in the Solarium. Isn’t that its purpose, after all? It is always sunny and bright in the Solarium.

The way in which the Solarium defines space is through a series of nested staircases. There is no space there defined by four walls. There are, at most, three. One walks down a set of stairs, turns, looks, notices an alcove created between two flights, and then a third, the walls of the staircases defining but not limiting, and there one sees a bench of concrete nestled in a corner. The white granite floor and walls of this space glow with sunlight. It is warm, but not overly so. One sits. One is now engaged in a sun bath.

Heliopoli_Full_EX34It is very quiet here, but not enclosed, not cut off, and one can turn again to see someone and talk, or not. It is peaceful here, like a Japanese sand garden, because like the frozen ripples of sand in such a space, with rocks at their centers, the Solarium is made of stone, and the water that is not water is sunlight, and held cupped in these peaceful spaces. Whenever one feels the need to stop time, one goes to the Solarium.

Could you not just sit outside anywhere and take in the sun in the same way? In Heliopoli, this may be true, but it wouldn’t be the same. Because you are not in this space. You are not here, among this going-up stair, this granite bench, this bright light, this view, this corner, this glance, this aesthetic, with sunlight spilling down to fill up this space.

The Solarium, though it is not located in the Central Plaza, is nevertheless central to Heliopoli.


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