Transcending Architecture

Transcending Architecture

EDITED BY JULIO BERMUDEZ
Foreword by Randall Ott
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130h9f6
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    Transcending Architecture
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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2680-4
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    RANDALL OTT

    Since the mid-1960s, skepticism about organized religion has largely eliminated discussion of the sacred from architectural curricula. This secular turn did not mean that all consideration of transcendence evaporated from our teaching and practice, but the operative program for such study decisively shifted. Despite orthodox modernism’s wish for an architecture founded on “pure” utility (on efficiency, science, production, technology, forthrightness, and so forth), architects and architectural educators still intuitively recognized that buildings had to serve “other” needs. Humanity yearned beyond the pragmatic, mechanical, or biological. Instead of the temple, cathedral, mosque, or synagogue, the art museum became the alternate venue...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. PART I. DISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES
    • 1 INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-18)
      JULIO BERMUDEZ

      If we ask professionals and scholars about the mission of architecture, most of them would agree that architecture is called to do a lot more than to guarantee the public health, safety, and welfare of building users. In fact, most would say that the promise of architecture begins fulfillment when such expectations have been metandtranscended. But transcended into what? Will outstanding building functionality, economy, sustainability, formalism, or even symbolism do it? At first sight, any of these accomplishments would seem good enough, but, upon reflection, a majority of us would concede that “transcending” architecture insinuates something much deeper,...

    • 2 LIGHT, SILENCE, AND SPIRITUALITY IN ARCHITECTURE AND ART
      (pp. 19-32)
      JUHANI PALLASMAA

      We tend to think of spirituality and sacredness in architecture in terms of specific building types, such as religious buildings and spaces, built especially for devotional purposes. Religious architecture and sites—churches, chapels, mausoleums, and cemeteries—intentionally express their spiritual purpose through deliberately evoking experiences of awe, devotion, piety, authority, mystery, ecstasy, timelessness, or afterlife. The experience sacredness implies a feeling of transcendence beyond the conditions of commonplace and the normality of meanings. A sacred space projects experiences in which physical characteristics turn into metaphysically charged feelings of transcendental reality and spiritual meanings.

      Yet we may ask whether the experience...

    • 3 THE DOMESTIC AND THE NUMINOUS IN SACRED ARCHITECTURE
      (pp. 33-46)
      THOMAS BARRIE

      This chapter focuses on the domestic symbolism often incorporated in sacred architecture. A broad range of examples illustrate how home and temple were often conflated and how, paradoxically, the multifarious symbolic agendas of religious architecture often relied on symbols of home and dwelling—contravening and confirming it as the house of the deity. It will argue that understanding this particular lineage of sacred architecture can inform the materialization of the numinous and transcendent today, illustrated by two small houses designed by the author. It will conclude by suggesting that the history of architecture is ever-present in its capacity to inform...

    • 4 NATURE, HEALING, AND THE NUMINOUS
      (pp. 47-62)
      REBECCA KRINKE

      “Transcending Architecture: The Aesthetics and Ethics of the Numinous” was the title of the symposium that gave birth to this book—and it was this subtitle that was the catalyst for this chapter. The numinous has been described as a “direct encounter with the wholly other,”¹ and “what we sense when we bow to what seems not to be on human scale.”² Certainly nature has been seen and experienced in this way across cultures and throughout time. Take a moment to imagine a forest, perhaps a redwood grove, with sunlight slanting through the trees. If you have ever stood among...

    • 5 FROM BIOREGIONAL TO REVERENTIAL URBANISM
      (pp. 63-73)
      MAGED SENBEL

      The state of the world’s ecological systems is both tragic and catastrophic. It is tragic that through our machinations as a growing civilization we have managed to remain blissfully oblivious to the negative impact that our urban development has had on the world’s ecosystems. It is catastrophic because we seem equally oblivious to the fact that our own health is inextricably tied to the wellbeing of other forms of life on Earth. We have also been unjust in our exploitation of our celestial home. A privileged minority have benefited while the majority teeter between vulnerability and despair. The urgency of...

    • 6 THE RISK OF THE INEFFABLE
      (pp. 74-87)
      KARLA CAVARRA BRITTON

      What do we consider sacred today? How do we express it in built form? How do we address these questions within our own religious traditions? How do we address these questions within the pluralism of the public sphere?

      These are arguably the key issues at the heart of “transcending architecture,” the topic of this book. The difficulties of such questions are acute. To readdress such foundational questions is, however, perhaps crucial today—especially within a school of architecture. For in academic fields all around us there is increasing recognition that religious conviction, or at least the search for recognizable patterns...

    • 7 LE CORBUSIER AT THE PARTHENON
      (pp. 88-110)
      JULIO BERMUDEZ

      According to Rudolf Otto, one of the most influential theologians and philosophers of religion of the twentieth century, the experience of beauty in art and architecture may afford us, however momentarily, a glimpse of the Holy or numinous.¹ He explains that these aesthetic occasions are rare, difficult to facilitate, and involve a phenomenology of “tremendous mystery.” More precisely, he describes the experience as a blissful mix of exhilaration, joy, insight, and peace, although it sometimes manifests itself as awful, depressing, and even horrific because, for the most part, we are not ready for an encounter with the “Other.” Put differently,...

  7. PART II. INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES
    • 8 THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH BUILDING
      (pp. 113-129)
      KEVIN SEASOLTZ

      The Christian church building, as a place or house for a Christian worshipping community, is certainly a sacred space; therefore, some preliminary remarks about sacred space in general should be helpful before moving into a more detailed discussion of the Christian church building.

      Because of the creative work of Mircea Eliade and others in the comparative study of world religions, sacred space has become a common category used to interpret diverse religious traditions. Those authors usually affirm that sacred space is something given with creation; hence, they agree that in order to appreciate the natural world as sacred one must...

    • 9 ECCLESIAL ARCHITECTURE AND IMAGE IN A POSTMODERN AGE
      (pp. 130-142)
      MARK E. WEDIG

      One encounters many pitfalls when attempting to comprehend contemporary religious experience. Understanding present-day religious concepts and practices often necessitates examining religion from the inside out or upside down. Moreover, interpreting the contemporary religious aesthetic landscape is even more complex due to the plurality of postmodern rituals and aesthetic praxes. And yet, despite the decentering challenges of contemporary global culture, religion continues to assert ritual encounters and seek environments to house it. The malleability of religion to culture enables people to enact their morality and belief often in spite of the barriers that thwart certain institutionalized religious participation and the confusion...

    • 10 SPIRITUALITY, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
      (pp. 143-159)
      MICHAEL J. SHERIDAN

      This chapter on spirituality, social justice, and the built environment is grounded in the conceptual frameworks, values, and ethics of social work, as this is the world I inhabit—a discipline and profession that differs in many ways from the world of architecture. As such, it is important to clarify both the worldview and language reflected here so that, hopefully, this offering can be part of a dialogue that allows both of us—writer and reader—to be standing on similar ground. Important signposts in this terrain are the key concepts ofspiritualityandsocial justice. Each has a particular...

    • 11 RITUAL, BELIEF, AND MEANING IN THE PRODUCTION OF SACRED SPACE
      (pp. 160-169)
      SUE ANN TAYLOR

      An anthropological perspective on the production of sacred space starts with an understanding of religion as a cultural phenomenon. Edward B. Tylor (1871) called the earliest form of religion “animism,” or the belief in spiritual beings. Based on the nineteenth-century unilineal evolutionary paradigm, the beliefs and practices changed as humans moved from this original state of what was viewed at that time as “primitive” religion to forms of polytheism (i.e., belief in multiple deities) and later emerging as monotheism (i.e., the belief in one Supreme Being).¹ Tylor’s ideas about the origins of religion are basically nontheistic as he concentrated on...

    • 12 ARCHITECTURAL CATALYSTS TO CONTEMPLATION
      (pp. 170-207)
      LINDSAY JONES

      On the website introducing the interdisciplinary symposium for which this chapter was originally written—a wide-ranging conference titled with the double (maybe triple) entendre “Transcending Architecture: Aesthetics & Ethics of the Numinous,” Julio Bermudez presents the following daringly exuberant claim: “Architecture is called to do a lot more than to guarantee the public health, safety and welfare of building users. . . . At its highest, architecture has the ability to turn geometric proportions into shivers, stone into tears, rituals into revelation, light into grace, space into contemplation, and time into divine presence.”¹ I, for one, am persuaded by these...

    • 13 TRANSCENDING AESTHETICS
      (pp. 208-222)
      KARSTEN HARRIES

      The title of this chapter, “Transcending Aesthetics,” seeks to respond to the title of the symposium that ushered in the present volume, “Transcending Architecture: Aesthetics and Ethics of the Numinous.” I find this title interestingly ambiguous: transcending suggests going beyond. But is “architecture” in the title to be understood as subject or object? Who or what here is doing the transcending, architecture or human observers? Is it we who must transcend architecture, which in this sense would have to be gone beyond or left behind, if we are to open ourselves to the numinous? Or is it perhaps architecture that...

  8. PART III. RESPONSE FROM ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE
    • 14 CALLING FORTH THE NUMINOUS IN ARCHITECTURE
      (pp. 225-230)
      MICHAEL J. CROSBIE

      One of the primary roles of sacred architecture is to facilitate an encounter with the “holy,” divine, or metaphysical. Given the centrality of this issue to any discussion of sacred space and architecture, it is essential to consider the concept of the “numinous” as advanced by Rudolf Otto, the German religious scholar and thinker, in his bookDas Heilige, published in 1917 (its first English translation,The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor and the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational, was published in 1923).

      Otto devised the term “numinous” to describe...

    • 15 ELEMENTAL SIMPLICITY
      (pp. 231-238)
      SUZANE REATIG

      A few days ago, I heard a lecture by Juhanni Pallasmaa at the Finnish Embassy concerning the architecture of silence. Today, life is driven by speed, rush, and chaos, neglecting our need to pause and experience calm and serenity. We long for stillness and silence in our culture and in our life. In light of his observations and my own belief in the role of art and nature in creating silence, I thought it would be appropriate to begin with an art piece by Walter de Maria,The Lightning Field(1977). This artwork is in the desert of New Mexico....

    • 16 TRANSCENDENCE, WHERE HAST THOU GONE?
      (pp. 239-246)
      DUNCAN G. STROIK

      When I think of the numinous (i.e., the experience of the Holy) and architecture, I am reminded of the work of Anders Sövik, who called his work the architecture of the “non-church.”¹ Like many people who devote their lives to religious architecture, Anders Sövik is not well known in the profession. I think this is what Karla Britton is partially talking about in her chapter in this volume. Sövik may not be held in high regard today, but—at least in the 1960s and 1970s—he was a very important architectural voice who influenced the design of many parish churches....

    • 17 ARCHITECTURAL QUESTS INTO THE NUMINOUS
      (pp. 247-255)
      TRAVIS PRICE

      A search of the numinous travels well beyond the great historical examples of sacred architecture. Indeed sacred architecture has never failed to be one of the best expediters for such a quest. We all readily understand design driven by spiritual metaphor when it comes to religious architecture. For millennia, from the animists like the Hopi, to the Egyptians, the Greeks, and Romans, to the great world religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, all have relied on succinct mythical metaphors to shape their edifices of worship and their heritage. These spiritual lyrics are at the heart of their messages,...

    • 18 REACHING FOR THE NUMINOUS
      (pp. 256-259)
      RICHARD S. VOSKO

      The main title of this book,Transcending Architecture, could be read as a double entendre. As a modifier, the word “transcending” describes architecture as a means for delivering human beings to an experience of what is a numinous episode. However, as a verb, the word “transcending” also suggests to me a movementbeyondour conventional expectations of how architecture functions as a pathway from the profane to the sacred.

      On one hand, it is difficult to disagree that architecture has a role in shaping cultures, attitudes, and value systems. It does. Some edifices can transport even the most cynical person...

    • 19 EXPLORING TRANSCENDENCE
      (pp. 260-266)
      THOMAS WALTON

      One only needs to peruse the table of contents to know that this volume is a rich panorama on the theme of transcendence. Gathered here are insights from architects, theologians, anthropologists, social workers, historians, and many other voices. There are commentaries on religious ceremonies, art, buildings, urban design, culture, and ethics. There is a discussion of individual perspectives and an analysis of transcendence as it is experienced by communities of believers. The content is intentionally diverse, stretching our minds and challenging us to take in new horizons. But such breadth also comes with risk. It is an intellectual journey that...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 269-298)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 299-316)
  11. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 317-322)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 323-332)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)