Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sacrificial Architecture and Modern Urbanism

Notre Dame professor of architecture Phillip Bess is writing at Right Reason on architecture both secular and sacred:

What are the marks of a sacramental sensibility in architecture and the city? To dwell even briefly with sacrifice, prohibitions, and obedience as marks of a sense of the sacred is to underscore the fact that these are not exactly prominent themes of contemporary "therapeutic" society. Indeed, contemporary art and architecture seem to aptly display the tenor of our era in works that commonly thematize self assertion over self sacrifice; revolt and entitlement over gratitude; the temporary over the durable; transgression over prohibition; autonomy and the pursuit of power over obedience to legitimate authority; and the deliberate blurring of distinctions over the desire to understand and order things in clear and right relationships to one another. To the extent that these themes indeed flourish in works of contemporary art and architecture, such works may be regarded as a conscious or unconscious denial of the sacred, or (perhaps) an artistic lamentation of the absence of a shared sense of the sacred in the contemporary world. If I am correct about the marks and effects of the sacred upon human social life however, the one thing these works are not is an address to the sacred.


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love the girls said...

Wow. Their architecture isn't very good, but I assumed the boys at Notre Dame could at least write on the subject. If this is what they are capable of, they can't. And are even less readable than Christian Norberg-Shulz who up to now I always assumed was the worst out there.

Why not write in the same manner as John Summerson whose essays on architecture are illuminating in their simplicity? For instance, Summerson's essay Heavenly Mansions An Interpretation of Gothic can be understood by even the simplest mind while giving wonderful and useful insight into a formative principle of both sacred and secular architecture.

love the girls said...

btw, here's John Summerson's book online:

Heavenly Mansions: And Other Essays on Architecture by John Summerson at Questia Online Library