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 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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