Architecture, Culture & Spirituality

Architecture, Culture & Spirituality
2A Magazine Issue 12 / Autumn 2009

Ahmad Zohadi
Some important questions form the basic premise of the essays presented in this issue: What philosophy is requisite if we are to live up to the full comprehension of phenomenal existence and to be on a level worthy of it? To what point must we enlarge our thought and imagination so that creative expressions in art and architecture shall be in a proportion to fully encompass the mystery and dimensions of phenomenal reality?
What is spirituality and what role does it play in this quest for deeper understanding of human existence, life’s purpose and artistic expression?
The perspectives and responses offered in these articles encompass both rational, measurable approaches to these questions and less measurable, intuitive answers. Together the rational and the intuitive seem to form complementary aspects of a more holistic approach to these age old questions, which are of vital relevance at this historic moment, particularly in the region that has recently experienced such rapid and somewhat less reflective growth. 
Another pivotal and related issue central to these essays is the perennial debate about how much of human actions are by virtue of fate, which is providential based and thus beyond man’s control and to what extent is it by personal will and existential circumstance and accident? Perhaps fate and will are also complementary and need not be viewed as mutually exclusive.
As the Managing Editor of 2A Magazine, I asked myself: Was it fate that brought the Forum of Architecture, Culture and Spirituality together? Was it fate that brought Nader Ardalan, Tom Barrie and I to meet and find resonance so that this issue of Architecture, Culture and Spirituality would be realized with they as Guest Editors? Or was it a combination of both destiny and rational decision-making that caused this fortuitous coming together?

Some other comments to complete this Editorial:
The cover design was inspired by images that catch the three themes of this issue: Architecture is represented by F.L.Wright’s Guggenheim Museum; Culture by the ancient legend of the warrior hero Rustam; and Georgia O’Keefe’s ethereal “Blue” painting is the quintessence of the Spiritual in abstract art.
This issue is organized in two parts: the first is devoted to academic essays presented at the Architecture, Culture and the Spiritual Symposium held in America, while the second part includes more regional essays and articles that are somewhat related and supportive of the ACS Symposium theme.
Finally, I believe the spiritual approach to life and design can add a much needed humanity and ethics to our 21st century architecture and urban designs, something that has been very much lost for the few centuries. We plan to continue exploring this theme by convening a near future conference and by publication of essays and projects that are motivated by such inspirations.  2A Magazine is proud to be part of this movement to bring greater spiritual consciousness to architecture and art.

Introduction by the Guest Editors:
Guest Editors: Nader Ardalan and Thomas Barrie
This 2A Architecture & Art Magazine Issue12 features research presented at a 2009 symposium hosted by the Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality, and  related essays and special art section articles that complement the articles on  architecture. Throughout this issue you will find a particular focus on the transcendent, diverse aspects of culture, architecture and meaning, and built works that serve to  establish connections between the poetic and the material. The quest of these essays by leading educators and practitioners of architecture is to offer an alternative way of approaching architecture and to shift from a kind of machine-inspired materialistic,  functionalist aesthetic that dominates design today to a more holistic sustainable and spiritually inspired design approach. The resolutions to these values and aesthetic questions remain elusive, but may provide profound inspirations for more meaningful answers that touch the individual soul and collective humanity.
The publication is organized according to the convenient (but not exclusive) categories of architectural theory, education and practice. Tom Barrie and Nader Ardalan introduce the overall theme by their lead essays. Tom Barrie describes the essential preparation and practice conducive to a transcendent world view, while Nader Ardalan positions this alternative world view and describes in summary the history, legitimacy and contemporary relevance of its root philosophic concepts. Julio Bermudez underlines the affective roles that architecture plays and its ability to phenomenally change us through the extraordinary experiences it can engender. Heinrich Hermann describes how the poetic and the ineffable can find a place in architectural education. And Michael Crosbie provides alternate views regarding the ubiquitous (and often inadequately understood) term sustainability as it relates to spirituality. These, and the other contributors, provide perspectives that serve to recall essential aspects and suggest a repositioned future of our diverse and nuanced disciplines of design.
The Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality is an international scholarly environment established in 2007 to support advanced architectural and interdisciplinary scholarship, research, practice, and education on the significance, phenomenal experience and deeper meanings to be found in the built environment. Its activities include web-based information resources, networking and discussion groups, conferences and symposia, and publications. The Inaugural Architecture, Culture and Spirituality Symposium was held March 24-26, 2009 at the Mt. Angel Abbey, Salem, Oregon, (where one of only two Alvar Aalto buildings in the US exists). This forum provided a diverse group of international educators and practicing architects the opportunity to share, discuss, and explore innovative ideas, practices, pedagogies, and studies within the multifarious subject areas of architecture, culture and spirituality.

Architecture, Culture & Spirituality
2A Magazine Issue 17 / Spring 2011


Khalid Habib Al Redha, Ahmad Zohadi

We believe that culture and spirituality directly and indirectly effects our lives in all dimensions specially in the dimensions of form, figure and space.

There are plenty of examples which can illustrate this fact, for example if we look at the Japanese contemporary architecture, we can clearly observe that it has its origin from its traditional, cultural and spiritual principals but at the same time it is harmonized it with necessities of modern life.
Most of the above items such as culture and religion belong to the category of Non Physical Design Sustainability.
The current international media is mostly focused on the phenomenal physical sustainability, but in this issue we would like to show that the subtle and invisible effects of culture & spirituality are as significant and 2A’s vision is that we don’t have to choose one in favor of the other, when designing, analyzing and building a structure.

We can and should consider and incorporate both physical & non physical elements.
When we come accross to architectural masterpieces such as Taj Mahal and other buildings as such, we deeply feel that, the creator of that design must have been in a deep meditative state while designing that structure. There is something more than mere mathematical calculations and symetrical proportions, it is as if the invisible hand of divine forces were present and had inspired the creator directly. When one simply looks at such buildings, his state of being changes immediately, one feels that he has entered into a timeless zone of reality, his mind stops analyzing and thinking, and becomes meditative and peaceful, in a way his soul’s vibrations harmonizes and attunes with the designer’s inner vibrations when he designed the structure. Living near such buildings, improves one’s inner state by making him more peaceful, calm, and balanced, and consequently this improved mental and spiritual state, will directy effect his physical well-being as well. Psychologists call this “Psychsomatic effect”, which means our psychological state directly effects our body. Thus it is very important to incorporate these non-physical elements into our (physical) designs, which can improve both our inner spiritual state and also our physical well-being.
The Architects of ancient civilizations, had also been aware of the importance of location of the structures and even cities. They chose specific locations, where they felt that the earth’s energy was becoming concentrated and was suitable for long-term and sustainable settlement. They looked for certain natural settings and patterns such as mountains, rivers and oceans, which created a certain energy pattern or vortexes,  and built their cities near these energy vortexes. For instance the city of Tehran is built beside the Alborz Mountains, which helps to use the vital energies to be gathered and not be dispersed, this not only magnifies the geo-physical energies, but also helps the mantal and spiritual energies of the occupants of the ciy to be concentrated and magnified.
The proper flow of energy is very essential for the health and growth of each individual and also for any society as a whole. This principle is valid for the inner sections of the structures as well. The Chinese have used the science and art of Feng Shui in both inner and outer designs by using various patterns, forms, figures and placements of elements such as furniture in  certain ways in order to facilitate the healthy flow of energy inside th the houses, buildings and public places. For a Feng Shui specialist, decoration is not merely directed to beautify the place, it is also and more importantly meant to improve the flow of vital positive energy. He tries to reduce the negative and draining energies which in turn promotes negative thinking and psychological moods, which may have been created by a certain limited energy flow caused by faulty structures, and furthermore by changing it to a structural or decorational design and setting that promotes a positive flow of energy which energizes and vitalizes our energy system and mental state.  
2A Magazine would like to specially thank and show our appreciation for the great efforts of the previous guest editor Homa Farjardi. We were honored and delighted to have her with us and her deep understanding nd expertese helped to illustrate the women’s concerns and progress in architecture in the best possible way.
And, once again it is a great honor to have Nader Ardalan who is president of Ardalan Associates, Consulting Architects in Boston and also Phillip James Tabb, Ph.D who is Architect and Professor of Architecture Texas A&M University as the guest editors of the current issue.
2A magazine has always looked for new ways of looking at architecture and art, and has presented various themes which  has explored different dimensions of those fields. Understanding the significance of spirituality and other non-physical aspects of architecture, which have been neglected or in some places completely ignored, 2A decided to dedicate another issue to this theme, because we believe the future of architecture can be enriched if we incoroprate the non-physical aspects into the physical designs. And 2A as an international media in the middle east wants to be a pioneer and promoter of this process.

Guest Editors: Nader Ardalan and Thomas Barrie
This Issue 17 of 2A Architecture & Art Magazine features 20 articles presented at the 2010 symposium hosted at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota by the Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality, and related essays and articles on design.  The idea that there are beautiful places in the world, that magic still exists, that there are special moments we can share, and that which is sacred finds expression in our lives, was the inspiration for this symposium.  It was organized along three key lines – spiritual theory and philosophies, important worldwide precedent studies, and the actual contemporary practice of the spiritual in design.  Through this issue you will find focus on transcendent, diverse aspects of culture and architecture, which serve to establish connections between the poetic and mystical, the inspirational and numinous, and the beautifully pragmatic and sacred built works.  The resolutions to these values and aesthetic questions remain elusive, and they provide the impetus and profound and enigmatic quest for the answers that will touch the individual soul and collective humanity.
In this issue, Patrick Quinn introduces the readers to the why the Symposium on the Spiritual in Design is so critical in today’s world, especially to the artist and architect. He describes the context, the rhythm of the sessions and provides a synopsis of the contributing essays.  Jennifer Yoos of VJAA Architects, the architect of the guest house where the Symposium was held, follows by defining the Place making challenge they faced and how they successfully sought to creatively resolve their design mandate.
The ACS papers then unfold focused upon three critical themes of theory, precedence and practice.  As in the trigram of Heaven, Man and Earth, these areas represent a full complement of concerns and inspiring insights woven together into a tapestry of scholarly investigations. 
Lead essays commence each of the three themes.  Nader Ardalan concludes the articles with an Epilogue that reflects upon possible lessons to be learned and where such discourses on design thinking may take us.
The Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality is an international scholarly environment established in 2007 to support advanced architectural and interdisciplinary scholarship, research practice, and education on the significance phenomenal experience and deeper meanings to be found in the built environment.  Its activities include web-based information resources, networking and discussion groups, conferences and symposia, and publications.  The Inaugural ACS Symposium was held March, 2009 at the Mt. Angel Abbey, Salem, Oregon (where only one of two Alvar Alto buildings in the US exists).  The second ACS Symposium was held June 17-18, 2010 at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota (where the masterplan and Abbey Church were designed by Marcel Breuer).  The third symposium is planned for June 29-July1, 2011 at the new sustainable Serenbe Community near Atlanta, Georgia (designed by Phillip Tabb).  For more information, visit the ACS Forum web site at