City glass, a very public gallery

“How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty?”

When Alice asked this of her kitten, glass and especially mirrors were not as common as they are today, to Alice a reflection in a mirror was something special, to be pondered over, it appeared to offer a whole other world beyond the reality of her own.

If only she could get there . . .

The distorting effect of a rail carriage door window at Bahnhof Zoo
The distorting effect of a rail carriage door window at Bahnhof Zoo

But life moves on, and science now has an explanation for almost everything,  with refractive indexes, glancing angles, incidental light etc., and has gradually but inexorably taken the mystery out of most of the things Alice encountered in her Wonderland.

A shop full of wicker products, just as a girl cycles past on the street outside
A shop full of wicker products, just as a girl cycles past on the street outside

But that very same science and resulting technological advance has brought about a revolution of the modern shopping high street, modern architecture and the abundant use of glass has transformed most towns and cities into a gigantic funhouse, a stroll down any high street can quickly become an optical adventure such as Alice could only have experienced while on a visit to a travelling fair staring into victorian carnival mirrors.

A set of windows high above street level
A set of windows high above street level

Gigantic sheets of glass have now become the reflective environment which we confront ourselves with on any shopping trip,  weird amalgamations of partially reflected exteriors together with brightly lit interiors, all struggling for attention.

It can often resemble ambling through an ever-transforming public art gallery, displaying works ranging from the psychedelic to that of surrealism and even occasionally nightmare-inducing visions of the disturbed. 

A set of glass panes at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin,   repeatedly reflecting oncoming pedestrians
A set of glass panes at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, repeatedly reflecting oncoming pedestrians

If you so choose, wherever the eye wanders, works of art hang ready framed for those who care to recognise and indulge its charm, and it’s all free.

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© 2021 - Andrew James Kirkwood

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