Abbey’s 27 Steps

abbeys steps

When Paul McCartney first sketched the cover image for Abbey Road –the four Beatles walking out from their studio— it started as an idea of passing.[1] Prior to the album cover, the group had a bit of a struggle and seemed like they were nearing their end – end of the golden era, end of their collaboration. But, of course, it turned out for the better and the records rocketed.[2]

There is a nice sense of rhythm that is seen on (1) the modularity of the crosswalk pattern and (2) the regular V-formation of their steps. Even though each member walked the same walk – the same journey –, each has his own cadence or measure. There will always be a slight offset between the steps and the disciplined crosswalk paving.

Abbey Road album cover – Beatles

When Nish and I had first developed the Traveling Pavilion project, the relationship to the linear procession seems viable. The 19’ x 19’ base, through basic Pythagorean Theorem, yields a 27-foot diagonal, hence it fits with the 27 steps (27 years that Mandela had spent in prison).  But is that the perfect way to measure it? After all, feet and inches are just standard measurements that may or may not align with the one who walks through it.

So how else can we measure it? Perhaps through time? Just as we often see the crosswalk timer, there is a measure of time of passing. Like a metronome is to a pianist, is there a constant audible rhythm, as one hears each of the eight-syllable lines of the “Invictus” poem? – one step for every four syllables, two steps for every line.

Time Distance Map – Kohei Sugiura + Mariko Yokogi

The graphic artist Kohei Sugiura (in collaboration with Mariko Yokogi) creates maps of that visualize the travel times throughout the cities of Japan.[3] These maps are altered, though they may speak more truth than standard coordinate-base maps. The lengths represented on Sugiura’s maps tell us time rather than distance.

Can we measure both time and distance as one walks through the 27 steps? Can the physical act of walking trigger a device that is connected to a spool of thread and would move at the same speed as the person walking, so that the pavilion is built up through the physical acts of walking through? The density of the pavilion, then, becomes a measure of support, of peace, of a movement (physical and metaphorical). The amount of thread used up measures the total distance past.

27 Steps – Nish Kothari + Anesta Iwan

As I arrive in Toronto, I wonder how many walks through the pavilion it would take to equate the 2700 miles between San Francisco and Toronto… 528,000 passings! The idea was to have this pavilion travel across the globe – but at the same time, can the travel/walk also affect the pavilion?


[1] “Sketch For The Abbey Road Album Cover Photo Shoot, 8 August 1969 | The Beatles Bible”. N.p., 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.

[2] “46 Years Ago: The Beatles Walk Into History With ‘Abbey Road’ Cover Photo”. Ultimate Classic Rock. N.p., 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.

[3] “Experiments In “Time Distance Map” : Diagram Collection By Kohei Sugiura”. Mariko Yokogi. N.p., 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.


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