Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Architecture & Nature: In the Beginning

In the previous posts we established that there are a myriad of architecture connections. There is one connection, however, that is more significant than all the others.....the connection of architecture to nature.  To understand this connection, one must first understand man's connection with nature. This connection goes back, way back, back to the beginning.
Garden of Eden

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." So begins the Genesis story of creation. Continued, God separates the land from the water and then creates plant and animal life. Man and woman are created and given dominion over the earth. They are placed in the Garden of Eden and commanded to tend it.

This connection of man to nature is foundational to the Christian faith.  It is, however, not unique to Christianity.  The connection, in one form or another, is found in all major world religions, and even in Evolution. Man's connection to nature, all would agree, is in his DNA.


As a means of survival, man has always sought ways to protect himself from the elements.  Early hunter-gatherers constructed transient dwellings, grass huts really, partially dug into the earth.  For thousands of years man continued to construct forms of shelter from whatever nature provided around him.  Eskimos constructed igloos from ice, the Souix erected tepees composed of saplings and animal skins, and the Pueblo Indians carved their shelter into the sides of the canyons.  This connection with nature continued even as man moved into sedentary agricultural societies.  The connection changed form but remained none the less.

Cliff Dwelling

Due to advances in technology and transportation, modern man has sometimes created modern architecture which seems to have little in common with the nature surrounding him. However, this is certainly not always the case, as illustrated by Faye Jones' Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. As one follows the path from the parking lot, the chapel slowly reveals itself, growing from the forest floor, stretching for the sky, and branching out, like the surrounding trees. It has much in common with the nature of which it is a part.  The stone floors, transparent walls, and thin wooden frame are derived from the land and artfully arranged so as to mimic the nature from which they were extracted. Experiencing nature from within its confines takes man full circle, in appreciation of the creator of the chapel, but even more, in awe of the Creator of Nature.

Approach to Thorncrown Chapel

Interior of Thorncrown Chapel
In this post we've spent some time talking about shelter, followed by an analysis of a work of architecture.  In the next post, we'll investigate the difference between shelter and architecture when we look at the connection between Architecture and Form in ... My Big Fat Greek Architecture.

1 comment:

  1. Another well-crafted post, Darryl. I personally admire a writer who can ground his subject matter back to the Beginning.