Heliopoli is a circular city. Along its outer edge lies the monorail system. At the city’s center lies the Central Plaza and in the center of the plaza sits the Sun Disk Monolith.
The Sun Disk Monolith is of indeterminate height. If one stands at its base and looks up, one gets dizzy. It is a little too small or a little too big than it should be, but that’s because one assumes it should be sized in some relation to human scale. It is not. One should never underestimate the effects the architects of Heliopoli seek to produce.
The monolith itself is made of some kind of clear crystal. Near its top, the Sun Disk — which is made, one assumes, of bronze — floats in a circular cutout. If one looks closely one can just make out tiny wires radiating out from the disk that anchor it in the cutout space. One is free to imagine these as sun rays.
Sunlight hits the Sun Disk full on in the morning and the evening. One is free to imagine that the monolith rotates ever so slowly throughout the year.
As sunlight heats the disk throughout the day and it cools at night, temperature changes cause expansions and contractions and make it chime. Sometimes it sounds like a gong. One hears this music at odd periods of the day, sometimes seconds apart, or hours. Some insist that the Sun Disk is a clock, and the tones mark increments of time, but the increments are never regular — or they are never perceived as such.
White lines stretch out from the base of the monolith, radiating outward through the plaza, leading to clumps of trees and marvelous buildings, far away, because the plaza is so large. The plaza is the perfect gathering place for conversation. Its flat, open expanse makes one feel expansive in turn.
The radiating white lines pose a problem, however. They are perfectly straight. Whether one stands at the base of the monolith or at the edge of the plaza, the lines of perspective are true and straight. But can they really be so?
One then recalls learning about how the ancient Greeks compensated for optical illusion when building the Parthenon. If they made all its lines straight, optical illusion would make them seemed curved. So the base of the Parthenon is curved so that it will appear straight; its middle is a few centimeters higher than its sides. In fact, there is hardly a straight line in any part of the Parthenon.
The ancient Greeks introduced imperfection in their structure in order that it may appear perfect. Could the architects of Heliopoli have done the same?
Start from the monolith base and walk along one of the lines, placing your shoes carefully on it to walk to the edge of the plaza. Eventually you come back to the monolith. But isn’t that because you met a friend and chatted? Isn’t it because you spotted a particularly lovely museum or house and stopped to wonder at it? Isn’t it because the clouds, reflected in the blue tiles of the plaza, made you look up and wonder at how close or far away, or how big or small, is that particular cloud, its shape reminding you of …. Isn’t that how you wound up back at the monolith, because it is beautiful here, and not because the plaza really has no edge and no center?
With its whispering chimes and playful perspective, one could say that the Sun Disk Monolith distorts time and space. It’s not so puzzling then that every attempt to draw a map of Heliopoli results in three words being placed at its center point:
You Are Here.