Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Power of Standing There

What's with the title? Phusis is a word the Greeks used that meant "the emerging and rising in itself and in all things". This is an important concept because what this does is 'clears and illuminates a sense of earth, it confirms our presence in the moment.

Where did that come from? I am currently in an Architectural theory class that is actually a graduate level course, one that I was invited into and also one that I am not getting credit for because I am still an undergrad. The reason I stayed in the course, is because I am learning a lot. It is very interesting and I believe will really help me better understand Architecture.
Currently I am studying some of the works by Martin Heidegger who wrote a comprehensive lecture in 1954 titled "Building, Dwelling, Thinking". I am not going to go into details here because it is very deep reading and required many passes for me to really let his concepts sink in. However I will share the basis of his essay because I felt it was very profound:

Martin believes that society has slipped away from our original form of 'authentic existence'. He believes that humans have the ability to 'dwell poetically' (sense of belonging and place in the highest sense coupled with an awareness of the fourfold) and that when we become detached from that, either through distractions or loss of the understanding of such we are in a sense tossed into a state of mild confusion, anxiety and chaos. Society around us becomes chaos, because things are not aligned as they should be. He talks about the 'fourfold', a word he uses that symbolizes sky, earth, mortals, divinities. Although his essay is pretty extensive, I am going to attempt to streamline his message: A building has the ability to make the world visible. How? because it reverts our attention back to the fourfold (sky, earth, mortals, divinities). Again, how? Heidegger gives the example of a Greek temple. The stone giving off a warm glow of the sun, but really, it is revealing the sun itself. Therefore the stone is making visible the grace of the sun ( Our eyes acknowledge the sky, the warmth of the sun on our face. Or the stars, and the black of night). The open space of the interior of the Greek temple frames the sky, therefore this framework makes visible the sky. It was built to honor the Gods, and by being in its presence one cannot help but think of the reasons it was built and what it signified, and therefore our thoughts are turned to the divinities of this world, and so the building reveals the divinities to us simply by standing there. It makes us ponder its past, of the hundreds of years it has stood there and in its permanence and steadfastness it reveals to us our mortality. We notice it's base, firmly rooted in the rock cleft upon which it stands, and it brings all those other things back down to earth. By standing there it reveals the sense of the earth upon which it stands. And so, the fourfold is shown (sky, earth, mortal, divinities) separately and yet all at once. This is Phusis, the emerging and rising in itself and in all things. For although the building simply stands there, it is bringing something into presence: The mortal standing there, the sky above him, the earth at his feet, and the concept of something divine. This is the fourfold, this is the power of architecture. It makes the world visible and spatial, "bringing something into presence". It is not representational. It is much more than that. It is the union of World and Thing. World in this sense means 'the time spent between' so man's stay between earth & sky, between birth & death, between joy & pain, between work & word. Thing means the manifestation of the fourfold.  So Things make a place come into presence, at the same time as its elements emerge as what they are (sky, earth, mortal, divinity).
Heidegger's work is worth studying because it raises consciousness of something greater. This was fascinating to me because it shows the reach of something 'just standing there'. How powerful that can be. We are always part of something bigger than we ever could imagine.

 Food for thought for the day... hopefully I made a little sense of  Heidegger's work. I by no means claim to fully understand it, but am trying to turn the words around in my mind and gain some insight from that. Enjoy the day!

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