Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Their research is responsible for one of the most distinctive features of Yakutsk. The majority of its large buildings are raised three or four feet from the ground, standing on dozens of concrete stilts: local government offices that take up an entire block, six-storey apartment buildings, a sizeable new Orthodox seminary currently under construction, even a hulking factory at the city’s edge. It gives the place a tentative feel, as if it were perching on the soil like a bird on a branch. The purpose of the stilts is to prevent heat from the buildings warming the ground, since this would melt the icy soil on which their foundations rest, causing them to sink. The wooden houses that remain in the centre of the city, and the many more that make up its poorer outskirts, show the wisdom of the new pile technique: you can tell the age of a building by how close to the pavement its windowsills have sagged. Snaking in between the buildings, throughout the city, are pipes carrying gas and steam from the centralised heating system; these too are carried above the ground on concrete piles, bending into improbable shapes to arch across streets.
Tony Wood at the LRB


Kyle said...

Is this from a chapter of Invisible Cities I have somehow missed?

Helen DeWitt said...

No. Just regular association of ideas.