Essential awe

I stood there with my thoughts. At the most awe-inspiring moment, a young man pushed forward to a telephone mounted on one of the columns of the nave. He picked it up, and listened. The telephone was tied to a tape-recording, giving interesting facts for tourists. He listened to the tape-recording of dates and facts, while the Sanctus blazed around him.

This man became a symbol for me of the loss of awe and of our loss of sense. Unable to immerse himself in the thing which filled the air and surrounded us, perhaps even unaware of the beauty which surrounded him, unaware of the size and importance of the sounds that he was hearing, he was more fascinated to listen to a tape-recording reeling off the dates when the cathedral was built. For a while, during the 20th century, this had become our world: a place where the difference between awe and casual interest had been sanded down to nothing.

But I realized on that day, that this young man’s behavior could summarize what my efforts as an architect have been about. All the efforts I have made have, at their heart, just this one intention: to bring back our awe… and to allow us to begin again to make things in the world which can intensify this awe.

(Pages 334-335)

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