TED Conversations

Lindsay Newland Bowker


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Have You Ever Had An Unexpected Spiritual or Emotional Encounter with a Building or Built Structure?

Thomas Heatherwicks designs have such a powerful humanity to them that it is spirit soaring even to see them in videos. Beyond aesthetics, beyond the beauty of the shapes and surfaces, certain buildings and structures seem to have an almost universal spiritual engagement..somethings that speaks to us beyond pure aesthetics..something that somehow speaks to spirit.We expect churches to have that effect eg Mark Rothko's Chapel and Stonehenge are two examples. Many buildings and structures not associated with worship have an almost universal emotional impact,for example the Vietnam memorial in Washington DC, and The Brooklyn Bridge, Christos Gates Project in Central Park, Anna Schuleits installations. They emanate something beyond the materials , beyond aestehetics alone.

(1) Have you expereienced one of Thomas' building sor structures? What was it like to be in its presence?
(2). Have you ever had an unexpected emotional encounter with a structure or building? (include a link to any photos or sketches you may have done)
(3) What do you recall about the particulars of the encounter?
(4) What do you think that was about? Was it just your mood that day? Were others around you having the same experience. (At the Vietnam Wall many people cry as soon as they see it and everyone there becomes a community sharing grief)
(5) Mark Rothko ‘s painting are especially noted for having a sort of living connection with viewers. He often meditated and many of his paintings were an expression of the meditation. He thought it possible that many viewers sort of recalled the meditation before the painting. ( similar to the tradition of icons
(6) Have you experienced one of Anna Schuleits installations? http://www.macfound.org/site/c.lkLXJ8MQKrH/b.2070789/apps/nl/content2.asp?content_id=%7BE1ACAFB1-7C83-4DF9-97E5-92CCD1E87BFF%7
(7)Did you walk the Gates Project at Central Park?


Closing Statement from Lindsay Newland Bowker

Thanks you, each and all, who shared your story of a building or built structure suddenly and unexpectedly engaging you. I was glad to find a few others who have made several such experiences and very intterested ti see similarities..as in the sense of time stopping ..two iwth a life long connection of unown origin and reason to a partcilar building and also differences..one person reported having very parictular viisons of a building she had never actually been in which was later confirmed in every detail when she got to see the room she envisioned. A few reported encounters with art that on further inquiry together turned out to have powerful intentions and to perhaps express powerful and controversial ideas. Two of us agreed that these things happen whe we are in a "thin space"..reflective, introspective, sercahing within, perhaps grieving. Great fun to find each other here and share and compare our experiences.

I had aparicular interest in this intersection between arhcitecture/design and psyche as my underagraduate thesisi andsome of my graduate work and my early planning carer were about exactly that. My undergraduate thesis was on how the built environment and its unfolding outward into the larger community via, parks, river wlaks etc. helped us identify outward from self to successively larger communities.. By coincidence the head of Urban Deign at NYU graduate school. Oscar Newman was modifying public housing projects to incorporate the exact same principles I had explored in my thesis and advocating a rdaical shift in the built enviornment for public housing away from the Le Corbuiser hi rise towers to wards a more humanist scale which fostered neighborhood and community. I was luckly enough to work closely with Oscar Newman as consulstant and associate inmy very early days as a city planner.

In my heart, this conversation was dedicated to Oscar as well as celebrating Thomas' vision..

  • May 21 2011: So far, the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, I think because it encapsulates so much religious history. The architecture, paintings and decorative details are stunning. I felt its beauty, spirituality and sense of religious conflict and domination over people all at the same time.
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      May 21 2011: Julie Ann.. I was hoping someone who had been to Hagi Sophia would answer here.. I haven't experienced it yet myself ( it's on my bucket list')I wonder if you could speak a bit more to that "mix of beauty , spirtulaity, sense of religious conflict and domination over people" at the same time. Are you saying part of what you expereinced..the beauty and spirituality just sort of poured in irresistably and that your knwoledg eof churchhistory an dho iwt realted to this building was happening all at once? Struggling with each other? Also are you saying that the building itself conveyed the conclict and domination ( not its architecture but its "sentience")Thank for sharing. Did you by any chance take your own photos you'd care to share with us by link?May I ask a question ? Did you have a sense thatthe building was kind of an engineering impossibility..that it was hard to imagine how it could be..how it could have been way back then?
      • May 21 2011: I do have photos - somewhere... I would have to find some time to look for them, but there should be lots of great ones online.

        I was awestruck by the architecture of the structure itself and the exquisite details inside, but also conflicted because many people die in the construction of such monumental structures and they are often built on the economic backs of the people. The building itself did not convey conflict or domination - my thoughts were always focused on the people behind the construction and their intent.

        The artwork inside was fascinating and inspiring. There was a certain sense of spirituality in the mosaics of Mary and Christ and also in being in a place that was the confluence of two major religions. Juxtaposed with this was knowledge that both religions have been used as tools of oppression. The structure spans a wide swath of history and really just makes you think a bit more deeply.
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    Jun 2 2011: Bella conversa, auguri a tutti. Signora Lindsay si voi volete continuare con un altra conversazione?
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      Jun 2 2011: Grazie Conte.

      My next conversation is entitle " Commodification of Narcissm: Do you Have it? Is it Fatal? Is Anyone Working on a Cure? That will keep the google trasnlator very busy if you join us there..

      Kindest Regards

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        Jun 2 2011: Grande e pericolosa questione. Narciso sempre atribulato di fronte a sei stesso, nel stesso spechio.
        La forma piu oscura e tremebunda dal paradiso inverso. Il Dante lo sapeba ....la Divina Commedia e la guida nel inferno. Signora Lindsay lei 'e Virgilio.
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          Jun 2 2011: we'll try to stay out of the shadows in the light..perhaps you can help with that?
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    Jun 1 2011: My encounters with buildings are on a very personal level. One such encounter was when I visited the estate of August ST. Gaudens, 2 days after my mother had died. I had a feeling to go there. When I got there I found that he had also died on July 19, just like my mother only 5o years earlier. Standing on his porch and then sitting at his breakfast table, looking out onto a huge open expanse of land, I had a strong vibration of his happy life and then felt my mothers spirit there with me in a very comforting way. I painted the painting Porch with Mountainview shortly after which is the first large scale watercolor I made. This painting really came through me because I wasn't very good at watercolor at the time. Its very mysterious how it happens that we pick up spiritual vibrations from buildings- one has to be receptive but for me, it often happens unexpectedly and inexplicably. I know that when I'm grieving or contemplating a life change-thats when the vibrations are strongest. To view the watercolor Porch with Mountainview, click on the link below and go to the sub-heading "watercolors"


    I also get an even stronger spiritual encounter from places in nature. Some places I've had powerful spiritual encounters are Wolfe Point at Bay of Fundy, Prince Edward Island (northern lights), and being the only person in Monets garden in Giverny at dusk. Sand Beach also has a powerful pull on my spirit.
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      Jun 1 2011: Marjorie..thnaks so much for bringing this story here. I had often wondered about this painting of yours and now I understand what was there, in your painting, about that expereience with the building itself..

      I love the trasnfernce of your expereience to your art..that whatever your were feeling passed throigh you onto that canvas with out analysis and with very little consciious intervention.

      It is inteesting tht you, like mnay of us, have these expereiences on a recurring basis. My own expereiences, like yours, seem tomost often happen when I am in a "thin place"..rfelvetive, inard looking,medittaing, struggling with some very deep questions, grieving...

      As an artists you stll have in that painting the whole message..it is iconically present for you, you can recapture it in whole or in part from the pinating itself.. For people like me who aren't artsist or musicians, the expereiences just sort of hange there as unsolved mysteries..

      Your story is a wonderful way to vivit together all that has been brought forawrd here.
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        Jun 1 2011: Thanks for moderating a most excellent conversation. It is forever intriguing to me that there is an intangible world out there that is infinitely larger than what we think we know.
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    Jun 1 2011: Last Call!!

    !Hope some newcomers who were unexpectedly moved by one of Thomas' buildings or by the Crispo Gates Project or the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington D.C. or any building any where in the world will tell us about it.

    The accounts that have been shared are very intriguing and will remain available after this conversation closes.Please enjoy reading them now and would welcome your comments and insight from your own expereience.For those who have commented akreday, I wonder if hyou have had new recollections or connections to the expereience you have shared here and if so, whether you would share those thoughts with us?
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    May 29 2011: In Paris, at the Musee d'Orsay
    I was walking around with no particular agenda when I saw the painting "Church at Auvers" by Vincent Van Gogh. The first thing that struck me was the color blue in the night sky of the painting- it was like no other blue that I have ever seen. Its beauty and poignancy brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the last paintings he painted. I feel there is particular poignancy to to the last works that an artist paints and I felt this coming through this work. While viewing it I felt his passion to paint and his sadness and suffering. The image is disturbing: 2 roads going around a church with no visible door but I have the sense that when he painted, he didn't think much, he was simply in a state of surrender, becoming a vessel or channel with a longing for his life story to be known. Perhaps because I am an artist, I felt a deep connection to this work and all that it holds. I hope his spirit can rest easy knowing that his work is loved by so many.
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      May 29 2011: Hi Marjorie..welcome to Ted Conversations and to this conversation.

      Thanks too for including the link to the image and for your unexpected spiritual encounter with itthrough the particular and unique color blue in it as well as its own "story".

      I know and enjoy your work and its deep spirituality and also your rich exploration of color as spirit so this sharing is personally very much appreciated. Thank you..
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    May 28 2011: Lindsay a Napoli noi viviamo nella eterna maraviglia da la nostra citta, intensa, fortissima, bellissima. The spirito e sempre presente. Always present. (My english is so primitive...my apologies)
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      May 29 2011: Translation for Conte's comment

      in Naples we live in the eternal wonder of our city, intense, strong, beautiful. The spirit is always present. Always present. (My Inglese is so primitive ... my apologies) Greetings

      Caro Conte,Così ho capito e spero di esperienza per me un giorno.C'è un edificio che enchnats voi più di altri?Warm RegardsLindsay

      English given to google for italian translation..So I understand and i hope to see for myself one day. Is there a building that particularly enchants you?
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        May 29 2011: Signora Lindsay...Ringrazio lo sforzo per tradurre le mie parole. E notevole che Lei è abbastanza gentile per sapere che l'ìnglese non è l'unica lingua sopra la terra. Questa e la essenza della vera comunicazione. Il linguaggio non e`soltanto parole. c'è nel Palazzo dalla Cordialità.
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          May 29 2011: translation for Conte's reply, above(from goodgle trasnlations

          )Mrs. Lindsay ... I thank the effort to translate my words. And great that you are kind enough to know that English is not the only language on earth. This is the essence of true communication. The language is not just words. Kindness is in the Palace
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    May 26 2011: In Sonoma county California there is a place called Odiyan near the coast where there are a group of structures built by volunteers starting about 1975 and continuing now. All inspired by Tibetan Buddhism. You can see pictures on Google but none of the pictures capture the mindblowing feeling of being there on the ground. i was one of the hundreds of volunteers from dozens of countries around the world who have contributed to the construction. It is hard to delineate where reality and dream begin and end as I first saw it in a dream and i go back there frequently in dream state still.
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      May 26 2011: ..nice to see you hereHello Chad and thank you for sharing your experience with Odiyan..as one of its builders.

      I see from their website that part of their practice of intentonality is to expand awareness and cnosciousness through work in community..to give all volunteers an opportunity to experience the spirtual expansivess and centering of work in community. Was that you expereince? Was that the prces for the building work you were engaged in?

      For those not familiar with Odiyan here is a link to their website with a beautiful picture of this amazing chunk of tibet iterally sitting in the hills of Sonoma. Pretty amazing.


      On retreatsliving in community sometimes we toll the bells on the hour and everyone stops whatever work they are about standing in a moment of silence..a moment of presence to our work; prseebce to our work in service to community. Just that small thing..tolling the bells,, but it somehow changes the meaning of the work..elevates it somehow.

      I was wonderimng if that was the how the building of Odiyan took place..in community as part of community of practice? And if so, wjether could tell us a little about that..about the practices and how that chnaged the expereience of your building work.

      Also I imagine that there are very different building systems involved in these traditional tibetan structures. Did a master teach you and was there a spirtuality to that teaching.?

      And finally, did you live there? I know that Odiyan is an intentional community..part of a growing movement.
      But I don't know of any others built on buddhist practice.
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    May 25 2011: Have you ever visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.? I took my folks there just to see it on a tour of landmarks..We had no personal conections to anyone who had died in the war..didn't know anyone whose name is on the wall. Just a routine tour. Yet as soon as it came into view our eyes welled up with tears..the wall itself..stertching so far and all those names on it..the epeople touching it and tracing the names of their loved ones off by pencil runbbing..the flowers laid there..all the kind of ohysical intimacy envisioned by the designer was just an unexpecteddly powerful emotional expereience. As we drew closer wlaking te entire length of the wal..we wanted to walk by every name..we became part of a community of grief there. We were all of a sudden a community grieving..nit just the loved one's whose names were there but grieving for what had happened..how many had died..how and for what. Have you visited the wall? did you have that expereience? Here is a wonderful account by a young man who had no connection with the viet nam war era http://www.kraigbrockschmidt.com/Pages.aspx?page=article_courage
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    May 25 2011: Watching the Ted Talk I was struck by being able to see the connection between the idea of the building as expressed by Heatherwick and the pysical manifestation of that idea in the building. The Seed Cathedral is perhaps the most powerful and poetic example of that where every aspect of the building brings the idea to life..turns the idea into experience.

    I f you were one of the lucky one's to see this structure in Shanghai we would love to have your first hand account here.Here is one recorded at a web site with photos that give a sense of what it must have been like to apporach, enter and exit this visionary bulding.

    •"The huge structure is almost like a living thing, with its undulating “hairs” and the promise of life encapsulated in each. The rods sway and move gracefully with every breeze, giving the impression that the entire monument is alive. But the inside is even more breathtaking… The potential for life and the future of the planet is encased in each of these tiny seeds, a fact that becomes strikingly potent when you are surrounded by thousands of them in this mesmerizing place. The Seed Cathedral, by contrast, is a peaceful and almost meditative space where one can quietly enjoy the diversity of nature’s promise. The overall effect is one of tranquility and a fundamental connection with nature."http://webecoist.com/2010/06/11/worshiping-nature-breathtaking-seed-cathedral-in-shanghai
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    May 25 2011: Did you walk the Crispo Gates in Central Park? ( I didn't get to myself..too far to travel.. and now regret it).. Much hullabaloo at his audacity to even suggest such a thing..bitter resentment for the parks thousands and thousands of daily users of the paths to be canopied by Crispo's saffron colored silk "gates". And then almost magically it was up and people were just hypnotized, mesmerzied by the way it celebrated the park, united the well to do southern end infront tot the palaz to the parts that extend at the north into Harlem..encouraged people to use the whole park,. You could see in the faces of those who turned up not knowing what to expect or what it would be like that they were awes truck and deeply moved--some to joy..some to reverence. If you were one of the lucky ones to walk the gates, please share your expereience here
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    May 23 2011: Several of the fascinating experiences shared here remind me of my father's "love affair" with the Parthenon and help me now understand that abit more. Adrianas comments about her sense of Mexico connects up with what my father always said of the Acropolis and in partcilaur the Partheneon. He said that it actually physically emppwerd him ( he & my mom wnet there shortly after my Dad retired)..that he could wlak further, climb without exhanustion, and felt a certain vitality at the Acropolis and in partocular at the parthenon.Adriana, in sharing her experience in Mexico, said it felt like a connection with a "primal essence"..maybe that is what my Dad connected with at the Acropolis.
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    May 23 2011: I'm always amazed by the scale of things, when I visited Teotihuacan, Xochicalco or the Puebla Cathedral, the chapel of Santo Domingo (also Puebla), the little church of Santa María Tonantzintla, the Palafoxiana Library (Puebla), the church of Aranzazu (Guadalajara).... I always find something that connects all this places. Mexico has this, it's full of everlasting places. Some part of the eternity has been placed and attached to this land. The experience is hard to describe, the time stops, suddenly there's no time, no space and only the place, the primary essence...
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      May 23 2011: Adriana,Thank you for this rich sharing referring to both ancient and "new world" architecture.Your observation that"Mexico .it is full of everlasting places..some part of eternity has been placed and attached to this land" is poetic and compelling . Buildings which reference and intersect with the sentience of a place , perhaps even somehow answering the sentience of a place have an energy that is more than the shapes and surfaces.I love your sense that the buildings in Mexico which move you are connected to each other through this" sense of the everlating", "sense of eternity" which is Mexico itself. Your description of time stopping of time resonates with my own experiences and also with what other commenters have said about their spiritual encounters with structures. But you express another dimension to that..this sense that when that happens..when time seems to stop, what has happened is an encounter with "the primary essence" Certain places ..exact locations.. seem to attract people beyond their beauty or the view from that place..the place itself seems to have a resonance that is experienced and rceognized. I have a spot like that here at Cove Meadow that everyone seems drawn to. I mowed a lpath to it and mowed out a cicrcle so people can stand in it. Maybe that's how some of the buildings that move us end up in certain locations. First you mow it, then you put a bench there, then a small structure..then a bigger structure all groiwng from th sentience of the place itselfYour decsription, especially this sense of connecting wth a "primal esence" hooks up with what my father always said about the Acropolis and in particular the Parthenon. I have done a separte post on that pointing back here to your wonderful account..Thank you so much Adriana for your the poetry and beauty with which you share your experience.
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      May 24 2011: I find her narration very poetic too and very beutiful. Thanks Adriana for sharing that great experience.
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    May 22 2011: I, for some reason, am deeply connected to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. On every trip to Paris, it's the first place I go to visit and I also always visit it the day before I leave town. I do like Gothic architecture in general, but that particular church has a distinct hold on me.

    I also love Romanesque architecture. I like architecture that feels like the environment it was built in.
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      May 22 2011: Hello Kimberly..thnaks for stopping by and for sharing your long term connection to the historic and breath takingly beautiful Saint-Denis. Would love to see your own images but for the benfit of commentors who may not know the church here is a glimpse and a bit of its very colorful history.http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/france/paris/stdenis/index.htmlSaint-Denis, by the way is the Saint said to have carried his own head uncer his arm walking quite a distance. A long line of Kings chose to be buried at Saint Denis.. As you can see a spell bindingly beautiful Basilica.When you frst fiund it Kimberly did you seek it out or have any knowldege of it..historically or architecturally?Any clues to its hold on you?..pure aesthetics? Again, many thnaks for stopping by, sharing your relationship with Saint Denis and giving us a chance to introuduce it to others who may not know of it.
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        May 23 2011: Oh yes, images I do have :)


        All of the Kings and Queens of France were buried there, and there is a long story to the church ... The coronations were held at Reims cathedral.

        I had learned about it in Art History class and then forgot about it. Didn't even bother to see it when I first got to Paris the first time... I was probably there four months before I entered the cathedral and only because I was visiting a friend who lived a few blocks away.

        Here is my story/introduction to it: http://paris.artist-at-large.com/2005/04/15/saint-denis-basilica/

        Within the last six months I have found a possible clue as to it's hold on me, although it hasn't been totally researched and authenticated. But before that I had always thought that there may be some sort of past life connection - in the building of it or living around it, or something ... I really did stop questioning it though and just appreciate it for what it is.
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          May 23 2011: Thank you Kimberly..lovely photos ..they give a sense of the richness of the surfaces, the play of light. Very beautiful.
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    May 22 2011: Have you ever experienced one of Anna Schuleit's installations http://www.1856.org/anna/bloom.html This one asort f "healing" for a closed mental insituon in massachusetts doen just before its demolition. Thousands whose psyche had been touched by the institution istelf or by terrible stories that attended such nsiutions before the deinsutitionalization movement came and any seemed t fnd some sort of closure for themselves through Anna's inspured installation. All of Anna's work seems to have this powerful instanttrasnformational connection with people .
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        May 22 2011: Dear Wongmo..your deep resonance with Anna Schuleits art ( more a ministry in some ways) is not surprising.

        Don't you think an important part of it is the "tribal meeting" aspect of it.she as shaman but the whole tribe through their intention together accomplishing the healing..the closure. I would love to experience one of her installations first hand and hope someone who sees this Ted Conversation will share that with us

        .Every community I think has these places that hold pieces of our past that we are ashamed of culturally.. that embarass us and cause us to cringe or grieve. We try to bring closure by not talking about it any more....trying to forget it. As you note..everyone actually feels the agony and fear imprisoned in these places.. In a separet post I will share my own such experience at the site of Coventry Cathedral ( it was bombed by germany in WWII..the allies new but dodn't want Germany to know they had racked the code so they let it be bombed..I was only 19 but I felt it so stirringly there at the little stone on a plaza that marks where the altar was.Such places would make a good Ted Conversation in its own right. We have two here in Maine..a place called Malaga Island where in the heydey of eugenics the governor had all of its mixed breed residents declared mentally unfit and instiutionalized in the second one Pineland, a state hospital witha horrific history. ( We need Anna at both)While at this conversation I was looking more to the power of architecture and built structures like bridges to sepak to us spritually..Anna's art and our conversation suggests these places in need of healing also belong in this conversation. I invite people to share these expereinces as well.Thnak you again , dear Wongmo.
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    May 22 2011: Great question! Thanks Lindsay for the opportunity of sharing experiences and learning from each other and thanks for the way you are leading this conversation. I am enjoying the many thoughtful narrations from commentators. Here goes my humble contribution:

    It is about my very first visit to the Museo del Prado. That summer, I was going to the South of Spain to see my family and I added a trip to Madrid, just to visit the famous museum. I went early in the morning and remained there for many hours making sure not to miss any spot, any work of art. It was a great emotional impact. There are no words to describe what I felt once inside the building, surrounded by paintings of Velazquez, Goya and many other great artists, paintings that I had always seen and admired in books but never in person. It was quite an experience! I especially remember the atmosphere near the famous painting The Family of Felipe IV, or Las Meninas by Velazquez or the two Majas by Goya. I don’t know how much time I spent watching these paintings from close, as if I couldn’t believe what my eyes were watching, some of the people portrayed were so vivid, they seemed to talk. Everything was amazing and I felt a great connexion with the place. I found myself in a big sea of people, mostly in groups, some families, others with tourists’ guides, most of them with cameras and taking pictures… I imagine they were talking, but I was not listening, I was too busy, I lost track of time and did not even feel tired or hungry. I was delighted by the beauty I was contemplating. I eventually took some pictures too and asked somebody to have my picture taken but the pictures I remember more are the ones that were not taken by any camera, the ones that remain in my memories.
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      May 22 2011: Veronica..nice to see you here and thnaks somuch for your wonderfyl story of many surprised encounters with art at the Prado. knowing th works you refer to I could almost walk your narrative with you and had images and impressions as I was redaing it..especially of a certain color red and a certain color blue.Your account of the paitings coming to life , the narratives actually running in real time is a a frequently reported one with icons.. it is almost the definition of an icon..that it somehow embodies and replays a specifc message a specifc story. Wile the works you mention are not icons they do have that iconic qulaity and I think it is clear in the images themseleves that the painter held a narrative passionately and was conveying it through the painting passionately.

      Also wnated tonote the connection again with that sense of losing touch iwth time . Two or three other commentors here have had that same expereience as part of their unexpected encounter.

      Thank you again, Veronica, for a very rich sharing that has added texture and dimsension and new territory to this conversation...( Yours is the first to mention this "coming to life" aspect which I have also experienced on two ocasion and may post about here before it is over)
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      May 22 2011: Further to Veronica's woderful sharing above, I wanted to inlude this link which has images of the Two Maja and also a bit about the story behind them that might explain someof what Veronica may have tapped into while she was there.http://artstoryinamedium.blogspot.com/2009/03/goyas-two-majas.htmlThese paitings were scandalous in their inception..a noblewoamn ( no oneknows who) being prortrayed as a harlot and also..a total shock to scoety at the time.."the full monty"..full frontal nudity. So especially at that time the act of painting it was a daring venture on the part of both subject and painter.putting each at great risk. Also if you giigle images the two maj you will see them near the balcony as Veronica must have seen them and can stand with her there as you think about her story.
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        May 23 2011: Thanks Lindsay for your kind words and for mentioning the iconic relationship. I opened the link; you seem to be passionate about art. Yes, indeed it’s a big enigma; there are many stories about the mysterious lady that was painted. There are also books, movies and articles about this fascinating story sometimes adding a bit of fantasy to it. If you visit the on-line gallery from the Prado museum you will notice the same reference you found and a few more details as you can listen to the audio guide:


        One more thing that I didn’t mention before, most of these paintings are huge. Some of them are life size or near to it. The dimensions of the two Majas are 95 cm x 190 cm. I guess this may have an impact in our reaction. They are vivid images and they come in life sizes. No wonder, you have the feeling they come into life. And, some paintings have some much depth of field, like Las Meninas by Velazquez that looks like a big window; you can almost enter in the room and interact with the people painted there.
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          May 23 2011: veronica..thanks for those two links..I will check them out at my aftrenoon tea break.Your comment about the size of the Maja is interesting..I haven't seen them in person but reading your words and knowing the great risk and controversy involved in even conceiving these paintings one has to assume that the size was very intentional ( it wasn't some tuny secret hideable thing). It was meant to confront the values it opposed and did that not just through the subject but intentionally through the choice of the size of the canvas.And now as I am writing this to you I am wodering if the lady of hi position who commissioned this was alo involved in all the choices, including the size of the canvas, to make a statement about eros in the life of a lady..about celebrating eros asa physical and spirtual and wonderfully human.Were the Maja hanging in that same sapce when you saw them..in that balcony gallery? Do you think thna hanging also contribnuts to the expereince of thee Maja to the viewer?
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        May 24 2011: That’s a good point Lindsay. In The Nude Maja, there are definitely many intentions which may have come from the painter himself, the lady who posed or the person who commissioned it. But, I don’t know if the choice of the size of the canvas was intentional too. I’m not an expert in Spanish art but from what I have observed, I can tell that the paintings from that period of time were all quite big. It may have been the trend. As far as I remember, most of Goya’s paintings shown at that museum are big canvases, except his self-portrait. The other painting that I mentioned, Las Meninas from Velazquez, is even bigger; the canvas is 318 cm x 276 cm.

        For more modern painters, yes I can assume that the size of a canvas can be intentional. For example, at Picasso museum, in his hometown Malaga, I have found that his works vary in size; we have to remember that he painted in many different periods. There are many works that are small but there are others that are just as big as highway panels.

        Concerning the location of the two majas, yes, I remember seeing them not too far apart one from the other; they are both in the same room. They almost make an effect of replication to the viewer, even if they are not the same painting. The Clothed Maja was painted some years later and from a slightly different angle, almost unnoticeable.
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      May 23 2011: Veronica..for the benefit of our commenters here so that they might enter your expereince withyou more fully, here is a lovely exploration with images of Las Meninas ( The Family of Phillipe IVe) which you mention in your sharing


      AgainAside form the art istelf ( mastery of perpective etc. etc.) it is a complex and controversial composition..an essay,encoded in paint. His own presence here in the act of painting..the invisible Queen & King whose presence we only catch in the tiny figures in the mirror at the back..all deliberately expressing what might not have been allowed in words.The same is true of architecture and its details..thing sthe artist or the architect chooses to iexpress a value or anidea..often one that at the time could not be expressed in words or which the architect chooses to express through the building rather than through words. Thi seems so clear when you hear Thomas speak of the intention, values and ideas behind his work and see the physcal form so beuatifully and powerfully including that idea..saying it without words allowing people to feel and recapture that just through the expereience of being in the building itself. ( In my case..I caught it mid air..it excited me even via video to see the idea so cleearly encoded in the building..to see the idea relived in the way people are using the buildings.
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        May 24 2011: Thanks for mentioning it and for the link. That painting is indeed very controversial and there have been many interpretations of the subject. I guess that makes it even more attractive. I like the “movement” it has, as coming to life. Everybody seems to be doing something; they look so vivid, even the painter himself or the Queen and King reflected in the mirror. It’s more like a photo shot. I cannot imagine all those people there posing that way for long hours or many sessions to be painted. I think that the painter captured a moment in movement in his memory, and this is my interpretation.
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    May 22 2011: Have you ever experienced a Thomas Heatherwicks building or structure first hand? What was it like? Does it bring out any feelings in you? Joy? Peace"? Laughter? Have you been to the power plant or do you live near there? How does it make you feel that something usually remote and unwelcome is such a beautiful and acessible part of the community?
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    May 21 2011: Good question Lindsay :)It happened to me many times. Still happens but don't know why ?Mostly what I observed it happens with place or structure with historical heritage.

    Say in Rome while walking around Collosseum I felt I was there many many years back in the middle of it fighting as a gladiator......

    Tears rolls down out of my control whenever I am there in any War Memorial and so on....... don't know why?

    Don't know how much of it due to structure and how much due my attachment to the history behind ......
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        May 21 2011: tempting to immediately jump in and start analysing experiences as they are reproted..but I really want this to first give everyone a chance to lay out the what..what their experience was and not get lost in the why. Salim hasn't even had a chnace yet to share even one example or speak fully about his own experience. So please..no analyis of others experience,OK? Of course adding directly from insights into your own expereience is what this is all about..that would be great to have here.I don't people to feel that if they post a very personal ecnounter and their own description of it that it will be subjected to uninvited analysis, interpretation or challenge.Each contribution should stand on it own terms as complete.Also delving off into a why of expeirinces like this that now may actually distort or alter people's account. We will all learn more and understand more if we let each narrative that will reside here come forth and rest here of its own accord for our consideration and reflection.I hope I can count on everyone to serve this conversation in that way. It is veryiimportant that we all speak only to our own narrative our own expeeience about this phenomenon..as we ourselves have experieinced it..
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        May 21 2011: Debra, my friend it will be great if you can really crack the WHY , it will help me to know myself as I am with Socretes' motto "Know Thyself"

        Lindsay , no worry it will not inhibit me to be candid really.
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        May 21 2011: I am a marketer Debra moving towards general management.
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      May 21 2011: Salim thnak you..interesting first that for you me and I gather Christophe it is a recurring experience. I have invited Christophe to say a bit more about that but what he did say below resonates with my own experience..that it is first of all a general mood at the time..and that there is a sudden and surprising awareness ..Chrisophe said of beauty but like you my own expereiences of this are often associated with places long used ( I mentioned Bandolier National Monument and a ceremnoial place of the Taino Indians in Puerto Roco as two examples.)Speaking only for myself and not in any way representing or interpretimg what Christophe has said, for me it has been a very sudden and unexpected expereience that involves some kind of "taking in" that sails right by words and conscious thought. ..as if it is more a reaching into me than my reaching out to it(ie I was not exploring in conscious thought or conversation what I was seeing or observing).sort of a taking in of the whole or some part of it. I don't recall my mood in lal these eccnounters but in one which I haven't spoke onhere I was in what I would call a thin place"..a sort of reflective, contemplative over all mood

      .Could you say a little more, if you recall, about a paricular expereience so we might all see and understand more of what your expereience has actually been?
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        May 21 2011: Hi LindsayAgain in Rome while I was in front of the field of chariot Racing field that I saw first in the film "Benhur" I felt I am Benhur, wheels of my chariot was broken by powerful conspirators in unjust way but I am racing .................

        In front of statue of Aphrodite , I felt I was there for her love.............

        In Agra Fort I felt I am Darashikoh fighting tyrrany of Aourangajeeb ............

        Sometimes was thinking in all those cases...... am I in my 2nd , 3rd or 4th life?

        Science also says about tranformation of matter to energy to matter ......... in very raw sense.... same said by some spiritual thoughts ..............

        All those were unconcious thinking.......... now I guess these are not beauty or hugeness of the structure but my attachment to history that I know & believe in my own way or may be both as the artistic mind behind those structures wanted to capture those emotions as well.
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          May 21 2011: thnak you salim..if you have any more thoughts, perhaps triggered by other things yet to be shared here, or if something "jiggles in you" hope you will share what gets shaken loose as we go along.

          bright blesssings

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    May 21 2011: I was in awe when I first saw the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.
    Think 2 hours passed before I realized I was still looking at it.

    And I've seen other nice buildings, but they could not make the same impact (not the Vatican, not the Taj Mahal, not the Mausolea of Toshogu Ieyasu or the Colosseum, the Louvre,Versailles or the Castle of Bouillon...
    Maybe my first sight of Himeji-jo came close, or Hagar Qim (as it is so ancient) or Getty Museum (imagining it as a living space)

    Why? I never quite know why some work of art, building, scenery, or animal, piece of music, park, person, tree,... deeply touches me or captivates me completely.
    I think it is dependent on my mood (I need to be relaxed) and a combined sudden element of surprise and beauty. It can give trance-like effects. Rare, but it happens.

    I did't see the Gates project live, so no idea there.
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      May 21 2011: Thank you Christophe. such a beautiful church..so much history built in the early 13th century and I can imagine that the context of Florence itelf must heighten the expereience of evreything. Interesting that suspension of time phenomenon..another commentor said she was at the Taj Mahal for 5 hours without realizing itI like the way you described it as coming from your mood and a sort of sudden encounter with extraordinary beauty. That fits with my experiences as well.. That sudden unexpected element.. That awareness of being moved without a clear understanding of why ( in other words not lead to it by a focused sequence of thought).Were you inside?? ( .beautiful frescoes, spectacular nave). Were you drawn to any partcular element or did you just sort of suddenly "take in the whole" Was it on your list of places you wanted to visit?Thnaks again..