Monday, January 5, 2009

Angels in the Architecture

Architecture embodies the human journey. Like the eddies and swirls of water cascading down a ravine reveal the shapes of the boulders the water flows across, the design elements of buildings reveal the terrain of human needs and dreams. Throughout history, architecture has been enriched with paintings and sculptures depicting the mystery of dwelling in this world. Only in last 200 years have architects designed structures that looked more like the tools used to craft buildings than the people that inhabited them. The adoration of the machine as a tool for creating better homes and cities replaced the appreciation of the human form as a renewing link between nature, imagination and architecture.

The painting above, Law Versus the Mob by John Stewart Curry, is located in the Department of Justice Building outside the Law Library. It shows a man fleeing a hate-filled mob. When the Attorney General of the United States, U.S. Attorneys, and Judges walk these halls, the architecture frames this stark reminder of their role in society.

Sacred architecture in most parts of the world is adorned with art that tells the whole story of the soul's journey. It's not all celestial light and humming chants. At the central portal into Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, for example, a pointed arch frames the full spectrum of experience. On the left are a host of saints with pious faces. On the right, devils frolic through horrific mischief. In the center of this wild scene sits Christ, Buddha-like, raising his hand in a fear not, be cool gesture. Hindu and Buddhist temples throughout Asia display these same sort of scenes.

What I've experienced with this is that sacred space is all encompassing space. It excludes nothing and embracing everything. All the impulses of life and invited in. Not for a Kumbayah sing along, but to stir the ocean of silence into powerful, revitalizing energy. The full spectrum of life from perfect peace to dynamic creation, destruction and renewal rises and falls within the measureless expanses of sacred space.

By looking for ways to include the design of the human body in our dwelling places, we may be able to imagine vital ways to connect the designs of our buildings to nature. I'm not suggesting we go backwards and cover our buildings with statues. Instead we can look into and feel the ways our consciousness is expressed through the gestures and expressions of our human form. We can look for ways to create places that extend those currents into the rooms we inhabit and find a sustainable coexistence between our minds, bodies and the garden of the world.

Thanks for the comments on previous posts. Keep sharing them and telling us what you're experiencing and doing.

No comments:

Post a Comment