One of London’s biggest newspapers, The Guardian, recently reviewed The Night Climbers of Cambridge, a reprint of the classic 1897 Cambridge buildering guidebok:… :

“I recently heard a group of urban climbers (builderers?) discussing how long they had been at the sport while watching one of their friends clambering up a drainpipe. ‘Since long before that James Bond film’ was the general consensus, as was the fact that hanging off concrete was their ‘soul’. I couldn’t resist a smirk at their adolescent craving for authenticity; too embarrassingly reminiscent of my own absurd teenage pride in imagining myself to have championed trip-hop and baggy trousers before ‘it all went mainstream’.”

The author goes on to make The Night Climbers of Cambridge a validation of the youth’s claims of buildering’s weightiness. Fair enough, it’s a fantastic book and it’s ancient.

But this “adolescent craving for authenticity” statement got me thinking. This is the kind of behavior I’ve witnessed in the parkour set, and given that the referenced James Bond film is Sebatien Foucan’s scene in Casino Royale, I wonder if the author is confusing buildering with parkour? In any case I’m sure some builderers of old have been guilty of such cravings. Not I of course. Certainly not I.

I recently turned 33, and am (hopefully) beyond my trying-to-differentiate-myself-from-the-herd phase. Yet I still climb buildings. I still get sweaty palms walking through the downtown core of a new city. Topping out on a new project or rooftop is met with that same feeling of exhilaration. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that buildering is my soul, such a single-minded mentality is a luxury only a teenager can afford, but it certainly drives me in some way. It fulfills a need.

Psychoanalyze if you must, but ultimately the reason we builder, from the Cambridge climbers of the early twentieth century to today, is because it’s so damn fun. Now excuse me while I finish off my “buildering 4 life” tattoo.