Since time immemorial, man has known that there’s more to what the naked eye could see. Life was so strange to be normal. There had to be a higher being who overlooked it all. This began the use of the visible to represent the invisible. These symbols had spiritual significance and kickstarted what I called spiritual architecture. Some built altars, others built statues while others carved gods out of wood.
Imhotep, the very first architect known by name was Egyptian. Architecture in the first civilization went hand-in-hand with craftsmanship. Imhotep was more of an artisan who carved the physical till the spiritual was revealed. Today, architects are more or less photoshop experts. Spirituality was so relevant in architecture that palaces, temples and all public buildings were dedicated to gods and built to show that spiritual significance.
Architects of the early eras were either kings, spiritual leaders or an honorable man chosen to carry out building instructions according to the oracle of the gods. Bezalel, mentioned in Exodus 31, was the architect who built the Tabernacle of Moses. The first man mentioned in the Bible to have been filled with the Spirit of God. Architects were held in high esteem and had some spiritual backing. Today, the average person doesn’t know how relevant the architect is, underpaying them into depression.
Buildings with spiritual significance have produced masterpieces well ahead of a million generations to come; the Pyramid of Giza, King Solomon’s Temple, the Temple of Hephaestus, to name but a few. The architecture had divine concepts for a start. That is, the architect had a divine intuition to design it in a particular way that overlaid the spiritual on top of the physical realm.
Such places were seen as the place where diviniy met humanity. The mathematical order still made it more functional, beautiful and durable than most buildings today. Facts! Not only were the temples built in this way, the entire community was. The place of worship was mathematically placed as the centre of the city. Also, there wasn’t a single redundant element in the design. Every symbol, design and handiwork had spiritual significance.
In the Bible, God goes into exquisite detail into how the Ark of Noah and and the Tabernacle of Moses is to be built. The Bible also goes into tremendous detail into how the Temple of Solomon was built. A typical vernacular architecture had symbolic meanings to every craft and design technique too, reflecting the religion and culture of each clan and tribe. Can we say same for modern architecture?
“Spiritual” architecture has mathematical order. Only mathematics can be used to explain spiritual relevance in a physical way. That’s why most church designs have order, symmetry and repetitive pattern, designed a little bit above the human scale for the user to experience awe and see how small one is in front of a big God. It is mathematical order that makes ancient masterpieces more functional, beautiful and durable than most designs today.
Frank Gehry wasn’t lying when he said 98% of what is built and designed today is pure shit. I couldn’t agree more. Including his designs, if you ask me. What is the focus of modern architecture? “I saw a nice building in that place. Can we replicate it here?”. Does the average architect know mathematical order, understand mathematical beauty and use them in designs? Golden ratio? Fibonacci sequence? Any spiritual significance? Any mathematical basis? Anything? Any?
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