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..

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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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