June 26, 2012
If the platonic ideal of all buildings is victorian cozy or the telos of all spaces is to be filled with throw pillows, then we serve a God of rather limited vision. The inherent diversity of creation teaches us otherwise. I should hate to be the one devoted to bringing the hippo or aardvark more in line with cuddly cat-and-dog norms.
Thanks for your comment. I trust you understood my reference to throw pillows to be somewhat (or very) glib. Not all animals need to be cute puppies and kittens, and not all buildings need to be Victorian tea rooms. However, I do think that the telos of all buildings is to promote human flourishing. Gymnasiums and libraries do that in different ways, as do apartments and even government office buildings. But I think that many architects, Rudolph included, have set aside the goal of human flourishing as they have explored ever more arcane (and in my view, inhumane) forms of expression. That's why I suggested--glibly--that we send in the decorators.
Are some buildings more equal than others? They were all designed by people who in turn are made in the image of God. I think in Philippians 4:8 Paul was getting at recognizing excellence and praiseworthiness as revealed in people's efforts or in God's own handiwork and how these can reveal the nature of God (which is of course excellent and praiseworthy).
A building on its own is just a building. A building as a reflection of its designer is worth considering, and perhaps praising or excoriating. A building designer, though, is worth everything God has to give. That's the message from Calvary, isn't it?
I'm not convinced that brutalism (or earlier strains of modernism for that matter) intrinsically rejects human flourishing for arcane and possibly inhumane forms. Neoclassical architecture, such as that seen in the neofascist forms favored here in D.C., is surely (and empirically) just as capable of doing so. In contrast, I've lived and worked in my share of (well designed) modernist and brutalist homes and offices and find them no more oppressive to my humanity (often less) than the 1890s brownstones or turn-of-the century farmhouses.
To my original post, I'd suggest that there is some matter of diversity in what constitutes human flourishing, as the diversity of people suggests. Therefore, while a minivan might seem to best cater to many human needs (comfort, space for children, relative per-person fuel economy, etc.), it might be oppressive and inhumane to another person---just as a Jeep CJ-5 or Porsche Speedster, though ideal for the flourishing of some, might be inhumane to the ideal minivan owner. In the same way, many live quite happily in Habitat 67 in Montreal, for example, and, in fact, actively seek it out. This provides some caution: we must be careful that we do not take our own personal preferences as indicative of some deeper natural law or norms.
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