LIKE AN ELEPHANT

I have been educated to believe that to be an architect is a vocation, just as it is a vocation to be a priest. I have been educated to believe that architecture is the most complete form of art, bridging man and nature, earth and sky, God and mortals. I have always believed, and still do, that architecture is the art of composing poetry on earth, in partnership with the earth; that architecture has the role of transmitting the emotion of matter, space, light and water.

I think the most popular contemporary construction nowadays is the exaltation of perverted and simplistic forms, reflecting a union that is neurotic and narcissistic, ignoring 5,000 years (or more) of history. Modern man feels that he is the centre of the universe; his arrogance and vanity demand constructions that are nothing more than mirrors. The powerful man and the neurotic man subconsciously recognise themselves in this high-tech style, in sensationalist and deconstructive architecture, the architecture of spectacularism.

It is a true disaster: the forms of contemporary construction have been separated from the stars. The clearest paradox, represented by religious buildings, is the most saddening. These edifices are sensationalist self-gratifications in reinforced concrete; they have ceased to be spaces for God and have become only places for man; they have ceased to be spaces for silence and have become spaces only for noise.

I live the profession of the architect as a ‘mission’: it is in a sense a religious attitude, serious, profound, rigorous and with truth and integrity: a rock against corruption, with a constant faith in one’s mission and in using the gift of vision in order to ensure the survival of sensibility in the world. Proposing the poetry of space with originality and individuality, however, can lead to uncertainty and incomprehension, and the client is caught off guard: if for materials you propose water rather than plastic, stone rather than glass, a void rather than the unconditional exploitation of space, elegance rather than sensationalism, the symbol rather than the captivating effect, the magic of light rather than light as a luxurious quantity, a elemental sense rather than a contemporary one.

But talent, strength, resistance, passion, will, faith, what you do or what you say, do not change the fact that you still suffer the anguish of an irredeemable defeat.

However, paradoxically, the more you encounter ignorance, a lack of sensibility, arrogance, mediocrity and corruption, the stronger the desire is not to submit to this poisoning of the spirit. This is because spirituality – the spirit and the soul – seen from the profane, materialistic and enriched barbaric viewpoint are useless, an excess, incomprehensible, a ball and chain. My fortune is, on the one hand, my faith in the meaning of my work and, on the other hand, my spontaneity in forgetting about the disappointments, betrayals and eliminations, looking forward, pushing ahead like an elephant, with the enthusiasm of doing and creating, albeit with the knowledge that human ingratitude knows no limits.

Thankfully, anguish can transform itself into positive energy: energy for a design that looks ahead to an evolution that is not only about technology and materials, but a total evolution that is simultaneously material and spiritual, modern and ancient, anthropological and ecological.

It is the architect’s task to design spaces imbued with spirit and materials, where one can at times find refuge, cleanse the inner self, rediscover peace, and grow mentally stronger: spaces conceived for the clarification of the mind. Without such places we would fall into an unbearable vacuum and barrenness.

Is this the supreme ambition of architecture? And why do I say supreme? Because a clear mind puts the driving force of animal desire in us to sleep and awakens the consciousness of the divine that is innate in the soul. Thus architecture makes space for the spiritual in man.

Claudio Silvestrin

 

(in A+D+M Magazine, no. 39, July 2012)


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