Cambridge, February 22, 2013
Did you notice how many cities have obelisks?
I don't know, maybe it's just me, since the two cities where I've lived--Buenos Aires and Boston--have obelisks as major monuments. There is of course, the one that Alberto Prebisch--a key Argentinean modern architect--designed in 1936 to celebrate the 400 years of Buenos Aires, a true icon at the intersection of three of its major thoroughfares, Corrientes, 9 de Julio and Diagonal Norte. And in Boston, the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, completed in 1843 to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill. Both of them are about the same height, just shy of 70 meters.
But start thinking about cities and obelisks and pretty soon you'll have a long list. The Obélisque de Luxor at the center of Place de la Concorde in Paris. Yes, the other Luxor obelisk, the one that remained back home in Egypt, at the pylon of the temple. The Washington Monument in DC, on the National Mall. Two in Istanbul, along the spina of Constantine's Hippodrome, the "Egyptian Obelisk" and the later, Roman "Walled Obelisk". And Rome itself would need a separate chapter, with eight obelisks brought from Egypt, five dating from the Imperial period and a number of more modern ones (it recently lost one, the Obelisk of Axum, that was returned to Ethiopia in 2005.)
One of my favorite stories on the subject is the image that links, inextricably, the Buenos Aires obelisk with the figure of Carlos Gardel, the ultimate tango singer, even if he died in June of 1935 and construction of the obelisk didn't begin until March of 1936 (Aldo Rossi would take it as just another example of his "Analogous City".)