Posted by: dacalu | 15 October 2015

That Lived in Look

I’ve been thinking about architecture today. Why do we build beautiful buildings and how do we put them to use? Being a fan of architecture, several examples came to mind.

Vista_aerea_del_Monasterio_de_El_Escorialver-1-tnHampton Court aerial 300 HB22

These are pictures of L’Escorial (17th c. Spain), Versailles (17th c. France), and Hampton Court (16th c. England). Each one is a palace and no one could mistake them for purely functional. And yet, they were built for more than luxury. Each one was established as an operational center of government for a State. Work was done in these places – not always well, certainly not democratically, but productively. Now consider three more.

Neuschwanstein StBasils Taj-Mahal-5

Neushwanstein (19th c. Bavaria), St. Basil’s (16th c. Russia), and the Taj Mahal (17th c. Mughal Empire) were all constructed as feats of architecture for a more limited audience. Neuschwanstein was a retreat for Mad King Ludwig. St. Basil’s was a Cathedral, but the interior space is quite limited – it’s more of a landmark. The Taj Mahal is a tomb. These are, in my opinion, three of the most beautiful buildings ever constructed, and yet I am slightly uneasy thinking about them. The first and the third threatened national economies. The second commemorates military victories and was a demonstration of imperial power. If nothing else, they must represent for us the accumulation of immense wealth and power in the hands of a single individual.

I’d like to ask how theologies and philosophies relate to these buildings. When you go beyond a specific claim (e.g., my table is flat, it’s bad to hit your brother) to a system (e.g., Natural Law Theology, Physicalism), what kind of building are you making. How many people can live there (or work or worship…)? I don’t like ugly philosophy any more than I like ugly buildings.

Gropius Dormitories

Still, even among beautiful buildings, there is something to be said about functionality and common goods. No matter how elegant, how well crafted, how beautiful a philosophy is, it’s probably not worth living there alone – especially if other people have to work to keep you there.

What kind of philosophical building do you live in?

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