While listening to the hauntingly beautiful modern composition, “Song of the Cherubim”, by the contemporary Polish composer Penderecki, I thought I’d do a little precedent study and compare it to those Slavic versions which have preceded it and from which tradition he drew. So, first the Penderecki piece, and then subsequent pieces moving back in history:
Penderecki’s Song of the Cherubim:
A more direct precedent, aurally:
Hymn of the Cherubim, on the 2nd Tone:
Tchaikovsky’s Hymn of the Cherubim:
Bortniansky’s Hymn of the Cherubim:
A. Kastorsky’s Hymn of the Cherubim, sung by the Sretensky Monastery Choir:
Rachmaninov’s Hymn of the Cherubim
I recently discovered this spectacular facade while searching for hi-res images of some of Michelangelo’s work. It’s a genuinely great mannerist work by a little known architect, Simone Moschino, a disciple of other mannerists such as Buontalenti, Ammanati, and through them, Michelangelo. I’ve searched the web and compiled a collection of images of the interior and exterior. Here is also a link to a flickr page I found with a collection of interior and exterior images for both San Giovanni Evangelist and other churches in Parma. Enjoy!
Since architecture is a distinctly human phenomenon, the objectification of space is always of a space that is orientated and relational because it is always experienced from a particular point of view: our bodies. Space is, therefore, never an abstract concept or a vacuum, nor even an absolute reality, it is always conditional and relative, and movement is seen as the change not simply or merely of physical location, but of one’s point of view or the frame of refernence. Hence, this space is one in which our bodily movements are both exhibited and contextualized within the realm of other bodies and their movements or relative positions with a spatial field.
Within the realm of human activity and experience, there exists an isomorphism between these natural movements of the body (or bodies) and the transcendent movements of the soul(s). Man exists in and experiences this tension, feels the pull between earth and the sky, of which the threshold and the horizon are points of entry/departure and orientation as we move laterally/horizontally through these vertical axes. We can, in a very easy but real and primordial way, both understand and experience this isomorphism from the simple fact that we naturally associate spatial realities and terminologies with non-empirical realities: verticality with transcendence, summits and peaks with the closeness to the divine, and being “elevated” and “lifted up” with the encounter with the beautiful. Thus the objectification of space, as human and inhabited space, necessarily also exhibits and reinforces the cruciform tension of our earthly existence between the horizontal and the vertical, or rather the immanent and the transcendent.
Because the space is distinctly human space, it is patterned, meaning that architecture is the objectification of space as experientially patterned. So, like unto art a-la Susanne Langer and Bernard Lonergan, it is the pure experiential patterning of space, or rather the objectification of a purely experiential spatial patterning. Patterning, both its experience and its making, involves the conscious withdrawal and return to the world. Hence, architecture always exhibits an abstraction from the world and a recapitulation in a formal, idealized, and compressed way. Thus architecture is ana-representational– iconic but not identical with the pattern of experience. It is instead a shorthand or compressed image of the experiential pattern. Because it is this and not merely an imitation of spatial patterns and forms we experience, there is a heightened drama in which the architecture must recapitulate the movements of bodies in space using forms available in a virtual and essentialized way within the creation of virtual space(s), imitating “nature” analogically and teleologically and thereby making explicit what is implicitly manifest in our patterned experience thereof.
So, this “explication” in a formal, idealized shorthand is what architecture is after. Hence, in order for us to be at home in this world, architecture must exhibit patterns (that are inherently “ordered”) which are both consonant with our experience of the world and of the world we desire proper to our human flourishing. Speaking to the first, it should imitate our human world (4 ways: restated ground, restated sky, restated horizon, restated threshold), imitate the movement of objects in this world/space (7 ways: up, down, left, right, forwards, backwards, circuitously), and imitate how we experience space (3 ways: foreground, middleground, background). Since architecture itself does not “move” in a literal sense, this involves virtual and relative movement by relations of parts within a whole composition rather than actual movement. Speaking to the second, it is the architect’s role to provide this threshold, or necessary conditions, under which those who experience the architectural whole can consciously, if properly disposed, experience the resolved tension of ones earthly existence by the clear ordering– the marker and the pointer– of the immanent towards the transcendent. Architecture thereby draws us deeper, by virtue of the aforementioned contemplative withdrawal and essentialized return, into the cosmic movement between the earth and the sky in which we find our daily existence.
Thus understood, in both general and specific ways depending on context, architecture is capable of ordering and orienting our lives in the lived, spatially experienced tension inherent in our gravity-bound natural condition, which is isomorphic with the spiritual tension and heaven-bound condition of our souls.
Beaux Arts Atelier 2nd year studio design esquisse, red chalk and sepia ink/wash. Objective: to create parti designs for a new manor house and garden in the manner of Edwin Lutyens for a site in Forest Hills Gardens, NY. Selected precedents include Lutyens’ Hampstead Garden Suburbs, Homewood, and Benno Janssens “La Tourelle”.
Sacred Heart Chapel receives write-up by Carl Bunderson at the Catholic News Agency, with interview responses from myself and Fr. Richard Hermes, SJ.
With the inauguration of the Year of Faith promulgated by Pope BXVI in the fall of 2012, the Jesuit community of Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL, was inspired to undertake the renovation of their existing 1960’s community residence chapel. I was subsequently commissioned to create the designs for the renovation, which ultimately included just about everything in the space– all trimwork and millwork and stonework, the window grilles, pews, reredos, altar rail, lectern, altar, side altar, statue pedestals, etc– except the statuary and the metal pieces such as the altar cross, candlesticks, and holy water fonts.
The existing structure– an unequal octagonal edifice with board and batten siding, stone-clad piers, and copper sheathed clerestory– was entirely retained and provided the skeletal framework, and thus the limiting conditions, within which the interior was to be reconceived. The existing interior, also still dating from the original chapel construction, was comprised of a central octagonal worship space circumscribed by perimeter storage and sacristy rooms, woven cloth walls under a veneer of wood batten strips in the nave, terrazzo slab floors, and applied abstract stained glass treatment at the perimeter windows and clerestory. The new interior was conceived as a complete cosmetic renovation with an extensive and entirely custom-designed and fabricated millwork and furnishing package.