(Mere Beauty In Truth)
By E. Kyle Richey
Beauty assembles itself in many forms. Nature, Art, Humanity, and Architecture are all designs that can culminate beauty. Architectural design requires a synergistic adaptation to its environment either urban or rural, natural or manufactured; there must be a harmony between that which is and that which is becoming. A biomimicry between the incoming architecture and that of the existing world…
Bode Museum, Berlin Germany
Construction for the Bode began in 1897 with Eberhard von Ihne as the museums architect devoted the Bode to a Renaissance design. A masterpiece respectable to the period while symmetrical and honorable to the surrounding city environment.
What fails in respect is the atrocious Soviet Fernsehturm TV Tower seen in the background. An eye sore lacking in respect to the historicity of Berlin, the tower is protruding a modern gaucheness that pollutes the surroundings.
Indoors the Bode, however, continues the synergy between the City of Berlin and the Classical Renaissance design inside the Museum, as though the indoors and outdoors carry semblance in purpose and meaning for the German people and all those who come to visit its humble grounds.
Modernity produced a post-modern movement; an accolade of its success turned rebellious child. Do all thing modern and post-modern automatically lack a Mere Beauty In Truth? Hardly. Rather it is a matter of tact and a real desire to mimic the environment that make a community whole and wholesome by producing an air of remembrance that is transcendental, immanent, and traditional in a way that everyone wants to stay or return again; I would describe it as grandmas café’ where the coffee is always hot, rich in aromas of delicious food, and there is a seat that always feels reserved just for you.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)
Temples, Churches, or Mosques like the Blue Mosque are fundamental to the whole design of a community as they represent real meaning and purpose as expressed through the architecture outside with its six minarets which call the people of Islam to their daily prayers. Indeed the Western, liberal, and secular mind tends to see religion as an affront, but such minds excuse the quintessential desire of the sacred; a root need to recognize God and the Heavens. Nothing is perfect, but the beauty of Islam for billions is portrayed in their belief of One God.
Sir Roger Scruton was a friend to Islam. Scruton writes that in Muslim philosophy there is a tradition where God and His oneness is definite, “that he is one, the possessor of an inimitable tawhid or oneness, which attaches to him precisely because it does not attach him as a property that might be shared” (Scruton 2014, Soul of the World, p. 190). Any attempt to eradicate the structure of mosques or churches or temples, in most cases, demonstrates a level of unrequitedness toward the higher ends of culture.
Not everything in a culture requires such delicacy but areas of faith are part of the biomimicry, the DNA of societal wellness. And of course I say that as a Christian just as Sir Roger comprehended Anglicanism and the Church of England as sacred for England.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
To speak of beauty is to enter another and more exalted realm—a realm sufficiently apart from our everyday concerns as to be mentioned only with a certain hesitation. People who are always in praise and pursuit of the beautiful are an embarrassment… — Sir Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World
Humble harmony: the street as home, taking the term from Scruton, that is what the town of Florence represents, and the Florence Cathedral is the manufactured mountain side one witnesses in awe as they weave through a large river, never too sure what is exactly around the corner, until you see its immanent precipice; a refreshing liturgy from the day to day. Beauty is not merely ravishing architecture but more so it is humility in the midst of what it is trying to accomplish. Take for example the Sikh Golden Temple:
Think whatever you may of its intended space with which it mimics the surrounding environment (physical/cultural), but consider its purpose of worship and feeding roughly 40,000 people a day for free. Even Christians would do well to remember what good is our churches should they fail at helping the Samaritans in their surrounding communities who are in need of the eternal spiritual nourishment of the Gospel and failing at feeding the hungry or caring for the sick? True beauty, a Mere Beauty In Truth, has intention within its aesthetic value.
Radcliffe Camera, Oxford University
I want to end with Radcliffe as it captures the centrality of Oxford University (old Oxford at least) where truth and knowledge intersect, a temple of knowledge surrounded by devotees and a city that exudes humble harmony.
Aesthetic moral worth is as much immaterial as material, not that the material has no worth, rather the moral worth is determined by factors outside of architectural material preferences. Feeding the hungry is a far more valuable material act than choosing a neoclassical design to match the exterior environment, but considering how an appearance creates or diminishes worth, not just monetary, but having a immaterial or spiritual respect for people and their needs is also a value worthy of consideration as we feed the hungry and care for the sick.
If we can build a community that has self-respect for its surroundings than there is a possibility in creating a respect for one another. Seeing the streets as a home instills eternal values for the soul. Entering a space of learning that inspires, like Radcliffe, can and must be applied to the baker shop, the gas station, and our homes. God created time, space, and matter that includes us; as Imago Dei there is a universal condition of self-worth places upon every human-being regardless of differences and conduct. In some manner, the aesthetic plays a central role in upholding that value.
That is a Mere Beauty In Truth.