Hot Potato: Food for Thought
The Built Environment
Magical Places
1997 October 13

Many people have never experienced a magical place, and they are the poorer for it. Most magical places are not magical all the time; they require the right conjunction of weather, light, and congregation to come alive. You can feel it when it happens.

Magical places I have been include Venice at sundown, Stonehenge before the chain-link fence, the New York World's Fair at night, Halifax, Nova Scotia, emerging out of the night fog, Nantucket, Mount Vernon, large parts of Bermuda, Tivoli Gardens (Copenhagen) on a warm summer evening, and Obidos (a fortified mediaeval town in Portugal). One thing many of these places have in common is water. Another is that the buildings are old, some of them really old. Finally, many of these places are at their best in the evening.

The creation of such magic is one of the highest achievements of man. Friends of mine had created, mostly with their own hands, a gorgeous house in the hills above Oakland with an incredible view of San Francisco. It was magical at night. It burned in the big fire several years ago. Those who knew the place will never forget it.

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