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Friday, October 12, 2007

Interface

I am a deeply intuitive thinker and I will often pursue disparate topics which seem (to me) deeply connected in some way, but without being able to articulate just how, rather trusting that it will somehow become clear in the pursuit. One such interface of topic for me is theology and architecture (or, urbanism, depending on how you define your terms). Little enough has been done on this (that I have seen), and what has been done isn't always fully satisfactory. I was musing on just this disconnect this morning prior to sitting in on my usual Friday lecture on Architecture and the Practical Imagination. In the moments prior to the lecture, I formulated the following:

What is architecture for? What are buildings for?
What they are for - apart from discrete functions - is the human.
What is man (humanity) for?
This in turn implies a whole host of (theo-)anthropological questions.
If the human is a graced gift of God, and is intended to glorify God to God's glory, and this is expressed ineluctably socially, namely through self-giving love and holiness, then architecture is (in part) the consideration of the space and conditions (physical, social, conventional) in which people may be ready for this glorifying or hindered and discouraged from it.

So far so good, but how to make sense of this in philosophical and architectural-theoretical terms?

And then during the lecture the professor said at one point that 'architecture is about the structure of relatedness.' Suddenly it all fell together for me, and I felt justified my intuitions (or at least as if I will be justified down the road; I haven't sent myself on a fool's errand.). If architecture is, literally but also figuratively, about the structure of relatedness, then it considers both the way that space shapes us as humans, and also the way to shape space for human flourishing. In this way, it becomes a precondition for all genuine human sociality, which is itself created by the Lord and which is intended to glorify the Lord and will be (ultimately) to the glory of the Lord. So architecture ends up being a very elemental consideration in sociality.

In all, a very good day in Cambridge.

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4 Comments:

Blogger maggi said...

we so have to have lunch/tea/chat... I think there is a massive seam to be uncovered here; I've dabbled on the edge of it from time to time

Friday, October 12, 2007 6:55:00 PM  
Blogger Old and Grey-headed said...

Jason,
As you think about ‘theology and architecture’, and
‘the structure of relatedness’ I hope you will look for
a 1950s book “The Church Incarnate” by Rudolf Schwarz,
a german church architect. My copy is 1050 of 1500.
I don’t know if it was ever reprinted. The German title
is “Vom Bau der Kirche” and dates from 1938.

The flap says: “...the basic model for church building is
the form of the human body: its form in space, which we
all share, which Christ assumed and in which he suffered;
and its form in time which led him, as it leads each Christian,
from cradle to cross.”

Some excerpts, including drawings can be found if you
‘Google’ on (in quotes) “The Church Incarnate” and look
for a ‘book result’. The URL is three lines!!!

If you can’t find it, I could photo copy it and mail to you.

I have taken to including my real name in blog entries:
J. A. Frazer Crocker, Jr.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 12:43:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Maggi:
Thanks - I'll be in touch about the possibility of having tea sometime this term. I definitely look forward to it.

Fraser:
Thanks so much for the reference, I look forward to chasing it up soon. I am just in the process of reviewing a book entitled _An Architecture of Immanence: Architecture for Worship and Ministry Today_ by Mark A. Torgerson. While my interest in the interface of theology and architecture is much broader than just church architecture, I also find church design quite interesting. The notion of building as skin and building as cosmos is increasingly interesting to me, and Schwarz very nearly combines the two, at least in the brief quotation you provide.

Thanks again both of you for your thoughts and encouragement!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 3:13:00 PM  
Blogger ian said...

The Church Incarnate is almost impossible to read - but when it reads, its impossibly beautiful. I think it is in a genre of its own, and it certainly has a great deal to add to our education as scholars/humans. He is piercingly insightful about church design: I'm not sure if any of his actual design material works, or is meant to work - it might remain abstract. I have a library copy. I need to renew for 10 years, as I'm told this is the period required to grasp the book. Hmmm. As for theology - I find that one hard to pin down. In a sense the book is more religious than architectural - certainly not theological, which is scientific, is it not?
Ian

Wednesday, November 07, 2007 10:13:00 PM  

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