Hurling Taj Mahals into the Sky

[Images: The Taj Mahal, the Ariane 5 rocket, the Space Shuttle – all buildings built to be hurled into the sky at high speed?].

The Taj Mahal looks like a cluster of secret rocketry structures; so what if we tested it out? Built engines in freshly excavated subcellars, cleared the area, trucked in fuel…?
What other buildings are rockets waiting to happen? Could the Empire State Building be a secret space shuttle – deep down in the tunnels of Manhattan, spelunkers find an unbelievable enginery locked inside tombs of bedrock?
Or, if we discovered a way to hurl all the high-rises and skyscrapers of the world into space, could we form our own rings of Saturn – loose buildings aggregated in orbits, linked by bridges, turning in circles above a planet we’ve left behind? What would Arthur C. Clarke or Hugh Ferris have to say about this?
And would the Indian government mind if we started with the Taj Mahal?

22 thoughts on “Hurling Taj Mahals into the Sky”

  1. the Empire State Building?

    Nah, the Chrysler building, THAT is a rocket, for sure.

    Also, most gothic church steeples.

  2. Although, since most of the length and mass of those rockets is fuel tank, progressively discarded in flight, I guess only a small cone-shaped part of the top of the Taj would make it into orbit.

    By analogy, I was wondering what kinds of building consist mostly of structure which has no function other than to support a functional “payload”. Obviously, things like the space needle have a functional element supported on an otherwise-useless column.

    Wells seem like another possible example — the shaft is of no use other than to provide access to the water at the bottom.

    What would the architectural analog of a sabot shell be?

  3. Curiously, Wayne Begley has posited the Taj was intended to evoke God’s celestial throne–a hypothesis he arrived at by way of a reading of the complex’s copious Qur’anic inscriptions. This is all problematic for a number of reasons, but it’s interesting to impose that same reading upon the rocket–i.e., Rockets as Thrones of Heaven.

  4. Theo, I’m tempted to say some part of a lift/elevator shaft. Or something that’s neither buttress nor wall in a cathedral. Or part of an oil-drilling rig.

    And Tim, you may be right…

    Second Anonymous, the interesting thing, by extension, is that rocketry assemblages might be, in and of themselves – and however inadvertantly – sacred architecture. They’re not consecrated, and are not an explicit part of, say, mainstream Hinduism or Christianity, but there’s no real theological reason to rule out the possibility that space exploration architecture is a modern day equivalent to Notre-Dame, or Chartres, or the Taj Mahal – as religiously intended structures. Could you study monasteries of medieval Ireland – alongside the International Space Station? Could you read contemporary Indian science fiction novels as a continuation of Hinduism by other means? It’s like this biography I recently read of Philip K. Dick, where it keeps describing how Dick, who converted to Catholicism with extraordinary intensity later in his life, was really treating Christianity, with its resurrections and armageddons and miracles and transsubstantiations, as a form of science fiction, a huge, novelistic, sci-fi scenario. No wonder he liked it so much.

    So you just reverse that: ostensibly secular, scientific architecture becomes sacred space pursued by other means. The Taj Mahal is a rocketry platform becomes: Cape Canaveral is the Taj Mahal.

  5. Just to remind all that the Taj Mahal is not strictly a religous building…
    It is a mausoleum for the favourite wife of the ‘king’

    It is a testament to his love of his late wife ( and of course wealth and power)

    This is not to say the analogy with rocketry does not stand up, only that the references change:

    Rockets as testaments to our love of exploration ( and of course wealth and power)

  6. OK lets pretend….

    Now just imagine that this rocket ” Notre Dame 2″ is going up into space as the sun rises…

    And as it reaches the upper atmosphere the huge stain glass port hole bursts into a multi-coloured spectacular the like of which has never been seen before.

    Millions of people watching live on TV are instantly assured of the existence of God and reminded that the only purpose for constructing such catherdrals on earth was the awesome inspiration of the Architects that some future Architect would be able to place these buildings in their rightful place in orbit.

    ( I really should get out more!)

  7. Seems to me the Washington Monument is begging to reach space. Perhaps it was secretly built to shuttle our politcal leaders to the safety of space in case of armageddon.

  8. Hey Jill, lookin’ hot in that Viking hat. You should make an Inhabitat calendar…

    I love these buildings! All of them, Theo, Jill, amritt, rkiivs, joules, anonymous, the only thing left to do is try. Get some earth-moving equipment, load up the foundations with rocket fuel, freak out a little that we’re doing it… And launch.

    The next step is design – at the very least sketch – a new ring for planet earth, i.e. rings of Saturn, only one made entirely of launched gothic cathedrals… Gothic cathedrals turning round the earth slowly in space, linked by buttressed arches, bridges and walkways, a Notre-Dame larger than any 20th century utopia ever imagined, stretching horizon-like rim to rim through the sky. Earth-halo.

    Anyway, thanks for the links!

  9. On the most recent episode of the Simpsons, Homer goes to India. I was paying less than full attention to the show, but at one point, the towers next to the Taj turned into rockets and blasted off.

  10. Great stuff Geoff, been reading your site for a few months.

    I’m reminded here of James Blish’s Cities in Flight

    “There was no longer any reason why a man-carrying vehicle to cross space needed to be small, cramped and penurious of weight. Once antigravity was an engineering reality, if was no longer necessary to design ships specially for space travel, for neither mass nor aerodynamic lines meant anything any more. The most massive and awkward object could be lifted and hurled off the Earth and carried almost any distance. Whole cities, if necessary, could be moved.

    Many were.”

  11. Anon, thanks for the tip, hadn’t read Blish; sounds like Archigram. Airship utopias.

    Meanwhile, the end of Men in Black, of course, has the abandoned remains of the World’s Fair in Queens… turn out to be parked flying saucers. So we can add that to the list. And does it count to add the high-rise apartment in Ghostbusters…? Even though it’s not a rocket? It does have a kind of secret function: to act as an antenna for ghosts.

    And to go back to Amritt’s comment, imagine if one New Year’s Eve they started launching gothic cathedral after gothic cathedral into space as some kind of complicated architectural airshow… Filling the sky with cathedrals. Whole cities, as anonymous says. (Speaking of which: see the comments here for hurling Venice spaceward). And could you ever build a church in space – or would that somehow violate the church/state thing? If NASA ran it? If they built a church in space, and welcomed pilgrims, would a new literary movement soon ensue, the published journals of space-bound religious pilgrims?

    Well – any more buildings-as-rockets?

  12. More practically, for your next crit or jury, attach one or more solid fuel model rocket motors to your model. They’re electronically ignited, so you can stand a safe distance away when you fire them. Takes Pimp my Model to a new level. Also, it could be an interesting blowfish option.

    Be sure to make the model strong enough to withstand the loads, particularly close to the point where the rocket motors are attached. As long as the rocket motor remains attached to the model, the whole assembly won’t go very far and nobody will get hurt.

  13. the simpsons this last sunday was about homer going to india in pursuits of outsourcing. anyhow there is an animated version of your post. The Taj Majal boosts off into space leaving a trail of rainbows in its path. In turn I think pop culture is ready for this, ready for building blast off.

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