Thursday, January 03, 2013



SIMPLICITY – Thoreau’s Walden was one of the first books I read in college. I really liked it a lot. Largely thanks to T.S. Eliot (and others), I eventually came to regard his modern romantic transcendentalism as somewhat ridiculous, but it still left a huge impression. Especially his idea of simplicity, of economy. Not like economics class, but his chapter called Economy. This is the part of me that is attracted to monasticism. Austerity. Willful poverty….losing the world but gaining your soul. (fasting)

NEUTRALITY – Part of me loathes the term “neutrality.” The problem with every suburban house or most every piece of architecture today is that it willfully strives for NEUTRALITY. But that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m referring to a kind Unbeing….the background for being. That from which things appear in the world. Life from death, you could say. “Life-in-death, death-in-life”, as WB Yeats called it. Silence (not the absence of sound). Concrete walls that serve as a background for things to pop out and really come to life. Whether it be people…moving…colored paintings…. Or colored walls…. Concrete walls are the chorus; monks chanting in the room are the action of the play. In humility, concrete bows to others, puts others first.

PLASTICITY – The French word is “plastique”, meaning “form.” Form work. TO form. It implies that things are not frozen objects in space and time. Living beings are not Gnostic prisoners. With poured-in-place concrete, you can see the form work, as if it wants to brim over from the other side. From the beyond. From the other side of the veil. It is the re-veillation of what is hidden. But what is hidden remains so. It is probably even burnt, if it was wooden form-work. But it is a 2 way streak. The form-work makes an impression, it leaves a mark. “What you loose here is loosed in heaven, what you bound here is bound in heaven.” It leaves a mark in your memory; it leaves an impression. It has staying power, but it implies motion.

The first image of this blog was a photo taken near the entrance to a monastery in Northern France by a famous modern architect. It is a purposefully comedic but sort of iconic pointer to-er of what is going on. It is an "image" of Prime Matter....its just a big lump of left over concrete, like a big rock emerging from the ground or over top of which the humanly-leveled ground of the building is laid. I say comedic because by the arrival of such a time in history, Le Corbusier had to make such an obvious (and obscene) sign appear in actual reality for the audience to be able to track the meaning of his artifice, which is less comedic and less obscene.

PERSONAL TASTE – Well…. Whenever I see poured in place concrete…well…my heart…it just wells up with joy :D Partially because of my love for the places where I’ve experienced it (such as the 2 places in the 3 pictures in this blog).

SUBTLETY - I detest things that are loud. For all their striving toward neutrality, contemporary buildings and houses still manage to be very loud, very cocophonious. This third and last image of this blog, an image of the chapel at Abbey du Thoronet, is of a Romanesque monastery, also in France. Concrete is meant to imitate natural stone from the earth. Look at all the subtle colors...all the subtle life in this dull, neutral stone.

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