July 31, 2007

Wonder

Dispatch interview with architect Michael Cadwell, author of Strange Details:
Q. Should all architects (and architecture students) read poetry?

A: I think we should all read poetry because poetry expands our ability to articulate what was previously inarticulate.

Q: You write in Strange Details, "But enough of associations as if architecture were only a text to be read." What else is architecture besides a text to be read?

A: There are instances when architecture is a kind of text to be read.

When we go into a Catholic church, for example, we know that the Stations of the Cross will be illustrated in some legible fashion. However, if the church is a good one (and the history of architecture abounds with such churches), even someone not acquainted with Catholic iconography may have a spatial experience that suggests a new or heightened awareness of the world.

Architecture, that is, has its own range of powerful effects that may not, finally, be dependent upon other modes of experiencing the world -- even language.

Q: Kahn's work, you say, "triggers, perhaps, wonder." Why "perhaps"? And why do you think we are reluctant to acknowledge that ethereal sensation?

A: Quite understandably, we often resist what we do not know and cannot articulate. Wonder, as I understand Kahn to have used the term late in his life, calls us beyond what we know, and architecture provides us a kind of safe zone to experience wonder.
From an Annie Dillard review:
The Maytrees is about wonder -- in the terms of this novel, life's one truth. It is wonder indeed that is invoked here, vast and elusive and inexhaustible and intimate and timeless.

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