The Pyramid as Public Art

The Pyramid as Public Art
Ancient Egyptian pyramids are perhaps the first examples of permanent public art. I will discuss architect I.M. Pei and artists Christo & Jeanne Claude in relation to 'modernizing' the pyramid.

The mathematics of the pyramid is that it has a square base and three triangular sides.
A 'pyramida' top can also be seen atop an obelisk (stone pillar).
Pyramidal structures can be found in Egypt, as well as Mexico.

Actual mountains or 'man-made' mountains were helpful in following the sun’s movement.
In the town of Heliopolis (which no longer exists), the religion of its people was centered around the sun and the sacred benben stone - also known as the pyramidion - the top stone of the Egyptian pyramid.
They saw the sun rise and set (by itself) or in relation to a pyramid or obelisk.

An inquisitive person might ask, "Why was this pyramidal shape created?"
It has been explained by historians and archaeologists alike that pyramids were constructed for religious and/or practical reasons – yet the whys and hows of the technology remain unanswered.

The first 'step' pyramid in Egypt was a 3D stepped monument, pointing to the sky.
The sun god Ra (Horus of the two horizons) was significant in ancient Egypt, as it was believed to be a god who was seen rise and set daily.
The practicality of the pyramid was so they could track the sun’s path in relation to the Nile – anticipating its overflow as it affected the agriculture of the region.
From a religious aspect, the pyramids were built as tombs for dead kings.

The public art we see today can be temporary or permanent.
Architect I.M. Pei designed the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, completed in 1989, which serves as an effective main entrance to the Louvre (as I can attest to).
Will this glass and metal structure withstand time, as the Great Pyramid of Giza? Only time will tell.

Artists Christo and Jeanne Claude have created wonderful (mostly temporary) public art.
The reason they have given for its temporary nature is that it creates a feeling of urgency to see their work, coupled with the love they bring to the project, knowing that it will not last.

In 2014, Christo designed a flat topped pyramid in Abu Dhabi called "Mastaba," made of 410,000 oil barrels.
It will be the world’s largest man made sculpture. Christo insists what he designs is largely based on aesthetics.

I have to wonder if Christo’s "Mastaba," a pyramid without the pyramidion, is indicative of some people in our society today: lacking faith in God, focusing on self, not needing to look up to the heavens - as did the Egyptians centuries earlier.

You can own the "Pocket Louvre" paperback, available here from

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