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Time for a greener architecture

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The Gestalt school identified several principles of use to artists and architects, but the most important is that of balance – that is, the constantly shifting balance that balances all opposites within the constantly shifting matrix of reality. Interestingly the principles of form found in the natural world are not dissimilar to the Gestalt principles that also operate in the unselfconscious human building traditions I referred to at the beginning of this article. Vernacular building traditions have evolved slowly over long periods of time and thus possess some of the coherent organic order found also in Nature. As in animal architecture, vernacular architecture possesses an inherent beauty: the beauty of integrity and unity. Such beauty emerges from the totally balanced integration of a system, its function and use into the broader realms of Nature.

So have we stumbled onto the reason why so many modern human-made environments fail to come up to the quality of some older towns and cities? At root the problem seems to lie in the spiritual posture that we adopt with Nature. Many people would now accept that as humans we are completely co-terminal with Nature. However, in claiming ownership, as we do, of that part of Nature that we call -self’, we not only separate ourselves from Nature but also separate ourselves from our own environments. Yogis tell us that the transcendental world of the spirit – the world of unity and pure consciousness – supports the relative world at each point. They tell us that the transcendental realm is a world without qualities yet gives rise to and sustains all qualities. They tell us that it is to be found in the -gap’ between the different states of consciousness: waking, dreaming and sleep; in the silences in music; between syllables in spoken language and even between our thoughts. The great 19th-century Indian holy man Ramakrishna Paramahansa was once asked, -Where do I find God?- His reply was, -Look between two thoughts.- This gap between perfectly balanced opposites is where life and spirit enter the relative world. It is also the vital middle ground between a subject and an object that defines the -mean’ and gives the meaning.

In conclusion we can say that it is order that gives life to a work and it is order that gives a work its spiritual dimension. It is in the perfect orderliness of a great work that the two worlds of materiality and spirit conjoin. Order is the agent that serves as the conduit between these two realms. Dare we say that -orderliness’ is next to -Godliness’?

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