The awakening of space

No building (and no part of any building) has real life unless it is deeply and robustly functional. What I mean by this, is that the beauty and force of any building arises always, and in its entirety, from the deep functional nature of the centers that have been created.

In nature there is essentially nothing that can be identified as a pure ornament without function. Conversely, in nature there is essentially no system that can be identified as functional which is not also beautiful in an ornamental sense. In nature there simply is no division between ornament and function.


The more conscious architecture of our own time has largely failed in this respect. We have had function as a mechanistic concept, and ornament as a superficial and stylistic concept. Neither has been satisfactory. Indeed, in our time, the separation of ornament and function has been one of the symptoms of the breakdown of architecture.

“But white people believe that everything is dead: stones, earth, animals, and people, even their own people. And if, in spite of that, things persist in trying to live, white people will rub them out.”

Even at this stage, the essential task of architecture — the nature of centers, and the task of making a single center — may still be far from clear. In order to understand it well, we need to recognize explicitly that each center is a kernel and spark of life in the fabric of space. That is, we have to understand, in an almost animistic way, that each center is a spot where space awakens, or comes to life — and that all function, all ornament, all order, comes into being, as the center takes on life whose potential existence is inherent in the space itself.

All this has intellectual consequences. If we want to make sense of the way that centers work, we cannot easily avoid the idea that space itself has the power to come to life — and that a center is an emerging spot of life in the material substance of space itself. This is disturbing, or at least surprising, because it is inconsistent with Cartesian mechanics.

In order to make it possible to have an idea like this, we need to understand space as a material which is capable of awakening. This is what I shall later refer to as “the ground”. The ground is just that “something” in the fabric of space which is capable of awakening. We may imagine it as lying behind the space to in the space or under the space conceptually. Or we may imagine it as the space itself, but then recognize space itself as something immeasurably deeper than the way we used to think about space in 20th-century physics.

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/11 The awakening of space#

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