Saturday, March 23, 2013

Aesthetics of Scale

After today's early tea, I came across an illuminating comparison of the two largest ocean liners of their ages, the infamous HMS Titanic and her modern counterpart, the Allure of the Seas. The image, alas for me, says most if not all: standards for size have changed. This at first might seem like progress. Surely Allure achieves commendable economies of scale which allow travelers of modest means to book passage. Too, today's sea queen boasts finer amenities and luxuries for all on board than the most posh of Titanic's rooms and decks. Look at the picture to the right, though. Isn't something amiss?

I think so: beauty. Allure of the Seas is a massive, ungainly vessel. Look how she seems to overflow from her prow and how the decks look slapped and storied atop one another. Look, below, at the carnival of bulbous, glassed-in theaters that festoon the top deck.

In contrast, observe the relative austerity of Titanic, how the top decks, protruding forward slightly, seem to cap off the prow. What dignified simplicity in the contrast of colors. Each ship is massive, but Allure looks overgrown, whereas Titanic looks consistent with itself: harmonized. Titanic impresses where Allure imposes.

What irony in the names, then. Titanic is a frank attempt to denote gravity and immensity, yet her design reflects an aesthetic. The name Allure is supposed to entice us, to charm us by natural appeal, and yet beauty here has been overlooked, or worse, disregarded.

Maybe the difference is of purpose. Titanic had just one, to carry passengers in luxury, whereas Allure is a floating amusement park attempting to be everything to everyone. Where Titanic achieved a noble simplicity of purpose and elegance of execution, Allure is a meretricious cash cow. Perhaps that's why, for all of their engineering feats and affordable accommodations, we take today's luxury liners for granted. They don't allure, they don't capture the imagination. They simply roll on, servicing the bourgeois as hi tech testaments to the tawdry and tasteless.

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