Biomorphism in the Basement

Look underneath the house there / Look beneath the floor boards

Crystal’s class had read out a specific quote from an architect of history, she was newly introduced to today. Andrea Palladio, __alive and ___ _ during the ___

And it was this:

BEAUTY will result from the form and correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and compleat body, wherein each member agrees with the other, and all necessary to compose what you intend to form.

An elegant quote that expressed something timeless and ultimate. Something she recognized as echoing Aristotle’s poetics. That idea of unity as a criterion of beauty. But then it was also mentioned that Palladio’s work featured something known as ‘biomorphism,’ that is, architectural reflection of the form and harmonic principles of the human body. Symmetry, around a spinal axis, but not symmetry on the coaxial plane. The way humans look mirrored from frontal view, left side to right side, but are different viewed in profile, from front half to back half. Each part should relate to the whole, and also to each other. And the inside should relate to the outside, in a way like flesh over bones.

A discussion ensued about anthropy.

Whether humans design buildings in this way to reflect themselves in their art and surroundings. If it’s intentional, or if we do it narcissistically, because we find ourselves fascinating and beautiful and know nothing else to judge aesthetically by– As if an ant hill takes its form from the way ants live and think of themselves. Which is how?

Human lives are not organic, eternal wholes in this way, that Andrea Palladio speaks of how buildings should be. We are always unfinished and unsure of the future.

Always under construction.

Some in the class expressed this in contemptual terms. That they build to forge the future out of dreams, that sort of thing. Try to create a shelf on which to place their hopes. Try to conquer space and reality in the materials of the builder. Things that cults of construction have declared down through the centuries, in fact.

Crystal put forth the pagan notion. That the western teleology is broken if it thinks it is marching to somewhere idolizing the human form posted up upon the ediface of possibility, without recognizing the eternal unfathomable mystery in every circle an architect traces. Recurrence, cycles, the ECHOES of the stone walls we erect. We are constituting a system of frozen eternity, when we plant a structure in the ether. Whether we build with bricks, or indestructable steel beams, or popsicle sticks.

As she left the class, she felt discomfited. She had given her spiel. But had she been so vocal because she felt the need to contradict what the others had said… for certainly she had different ideas that theirs. Or was she trying to convince herself, somehow? Was she throwing words out, about her belief in the sacred and eternal, only to know, back alone to question whether they simply fall to the floor. Lower than the floor. To some basement of the world.

If we build out of practicality, is the ‘what if’ she has the most trouble facing.

What could be worse than having dreams and ideals? Look out at the city, how much of a pile of conjunctions and adulterations of forms and conceptions everything is, jumbled and tossed into what amounts to a mess of often dreary broken down impressions.

It’s like Blake said, she thinks. There’s so much going on in the city, just walking around, there’s too much to pay attention to. When you find something interesting it’s a bit like stepping on something sharp. You don’t know if you find some strange happening to take up your evening and intoxicate you and lull you into an ecstatic dream night… or whether you pick up some infectious disease that debilitates you for the rest of your existence because of the encounter. He was exaggerating of course, like he always does. But I agreed with him, and we formed a shared verdict. That you have to become some kind of supermutant to survive in this wasteland.

She wonders what kind of superpower it is she is developing from her now-developing-into-intensive interest in architecture and its meanings for our lives, her life. She checks the time… She’s supposed to meet up with Blake for dinner. And a movie, at that old theater built in the 40s. The one that looks like a palace.

A date of lo mein and some old static-y movie on the big screen, called ‘Only Angels Have Wings.’ As the sun sets down below the hill on the horizon to the west, and she heads North through the portal in the campus quad, architecturally styled in Greek Revival she can now recognize… She is in for a night of that feeling of timelessness and low-key classic rumination she so craves.

‘Only Angels Have Wings’ – Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Dir. by Howard Hawks

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