What of our modern works?
Still, it is undeniable that this quality has been reached outside a religious context, and has been reached quite often. 20th-century examples of buildings which have reached this quality exist, too. But they are more rare. Indeed, in recent architecture, truly profound works hardly exist. We must regretfully admit that the more “shiny” modern works and postmodern works almost never reach this substance. They cannot, because they have not been trying to. Rather they are defined by a search for commercial images, and are governed by style, image, form without substance, effect without content, appearance instead of satisfying emotional reality. Yet there are occasionally works which express something that might be seen as similarly religious in achieved quality (though not in origin).
These last — as do the paintings — contain a similar rough quality, a blinding light of some kind, a quiet humility, which has its origins in personal thought, private inspiration, a trace of an even deeper source perhaps, finding its origin in every person, yet not necessarily stoked or inspired or animated by social religious yearning for God. Yet, the very profound connection with God which we find in the works of the 14th century is almost unattainable for us — just because of our scientific sophistication.
To make living structure — really to make living structure — it seems almost as though somehow, we are charged, for our time, with finding a new form of God, a new way of understanding the deepest origins of our experience, of the matter in the universe so that we, too, when lucky, with devotion, might find it possible to reveal this “something” and its blinding light. Yet any new approach to the creation of living structure which is to succeed, cannot be sentimental, cannot be rooted in some old kind of religion. The old kind of religion will not work for most of us and, I think, in its old form, cannot work successfully for us.
It is the belief, the unshakable nature of the belief, its authenticity, and above all its solidity, which made it work effectively for them. We, in our time, need an authentic belief, a certainty, connected with the ultimate reaches of space and time — which does the same for us.
We see in the churches and paintings and ramparts and inlays of medieval Florence, the shaking experience of what can be made by people living day after day in such a God-centered world, under the inspiration of a God-centered vision of the universe. But it is not realistic to imagine that the belief which they had, and which inspired them and led them on and then released them to make these marvelous works, could, in the same form, be ours again. That era has passed.
Somehow, our own version of this relatedness between man and the universe, our own way of making a connection to the “I”, must be more direct, must be more rooted in truths consistent with the 21st century. If there is to be such a thing in the future, it must — if we ever reach it — be a transformed version ,perhaps a vision of something like God, a future vision of the universe that arises from our time, consistent with our biology and physics, that makes sense for us of our world, that can inspire us in a way that is connected with our own state of 21st-century evolution.