January 12, 2011
pyramid gaslight
Inverted Pyramid at the Louvre, Designed by I. M. Pei, Paris, 1989 (source)
Still from Gaslight, 1944 (source)


In Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, the author attaches special importance to I. M. Pei’s 1989 addition to the Louvre in Paris, which he concludes is the burial site of the Holy Grail. What is curious about Brown’s hypothesis is that it assumes a complicit architectural profession, and in so doing forces us to reconsider Pei’s reputation as a high modernist. While Pei’s work is often viewed as an exploration into the volumetric potential of basic geometries, Brown interprets it as an infatuation with symbology (not surprisingly, basic geometries translate quite well into symbols of other things). While Pei has argued that the pyramid was ‘most compatible with the architecture of the Louvre, especially with the faceted planes of its roofs’ and that his pyramids were not meant to be read as copies of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, for Brown, Pei’s pyramids are foremost wayfinders for members of the Priory of Sion. The pyramids represent a V, feminine vessel (vagina), or Holy Grail (Brown believes that the Holy Grail is no mere physical artifact, but proof of a bloodline resulting from the union of Christ and Mary Magdalene). Pei’s architecture thus leapfrogs modernism altogether and ultimately lands alongside the other contemporary symbologists, postmodernists such as Robert Venturi (whose last name coincidentally begins with the letter V). Through the lens of Brown’s conspiratorial theories, the pyramids at the Louvre are therefore architectural ducks, appropriate, considering they lie inside of a courtyard made up of some of the most lavishly decorated sheds in the world.


Accepting Brown’s conclusion, Pei’s life long devotion to the Priory of Sion resulted in a laundry list of additional pyramidal Sionic signposts. One can only imagine what lies buried under these other pyramids:


East Wing, National Gallery, Washington, DC, 1978
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY, 1979 (pyramidal space frame)
IBM Office Building Complex, Somers, NY, 1989
Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, 1990 (stacked pyramids)
Guggenheim Pavilion, New York, NY, 1992
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, OH, 1998


E. Sean Bailey


In the 1944 filmGaslight, the home, potentially the site of Paula Alquist’s conjugal bliss, is perverted by a husband who is similarly depraved. He’s in it for the jewels, you see.


He, her husband, moves things within the house. Her bag, the table and his pocket watch change position unexpectedly, appearing in the wrong places—the seeming symptoms of her mental degeneration. He flickers the gaslights and the rooms become suddenly brighter and then dark again. This varied dimness convinces her that it is not the physical world that is somehow corrupt, but rather, her mind. For poor Paula, our victim-cum-heroine, the home becomes not only the stage but also an actor in her psychological oppression.


Following the release of this movie, ‘gaslight’ has become an expression to describe intentional psychological manipulation—a quaint noun is transformed into a sinister verb by the eponymous film.


Rachel Engler





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