Amsterdam The Netherlands, architecture, Aspects of travel, book, Cities, Correspondence, culture, education, Frank LLoyd Wright + Lewis Mumford book title, Frank Llyod Wright, history, isbn 0269027998, isbn 1-56898-291-7, Isidor Pollak photographer, Lewis Mumford historian, original photographs, philosophy, photography, Princeton Architectural Press, religion, Social Sciences, Spinoza philosopher
When you are not caught up in the hustle and bustle of a city and you pace your walk, you watch and collect your thoughts in a different way. Thinking about architecture and cities, especially European ones you cannot help but notice extraordinary signs both physically and spiritually of how people thought about their surroundings and ornamentation. Recently, I came across a very fascinating book about the correspondence of two great students of the last century’s architecture.
Lewis Mumford and Frank Lloyd Wright were two very erudite men from different backgrounds, one a critic and the other a practitioner of the building trade. One, who built icons of architecture and the other a historian of cities and their development. Having read a number of books by Lewis Mumford, I knew that I would thoroughly enjoy reading the exchange of thoughts between these two men in the book Frank LLoyd Wright + Lewis Mumford, Thirty Years of Correspondence.
Now back to being there! Who watches over the city? In the old days, churches had statues on them, sculptured saints or devils, angels and demons. It is not hard to find examples of this in any great city like Paris, Berlin or Rome.
Have a look here in the city of Amsterdam, the Netherlands of a statue of Baruch Spinoza (AKA Benedict Spinoza) where the thinkers and philosophers are not on the buildings, but on the street. You hope in vain perhaps that someone cleans the plaque near the statue.
Mumford might have remarked something like, “Crossing a bridge might make you stop and reflect upon the imposing vestiges of perceived powers immortalized in stone or other material, keeping you company in your quest for an unimpeded view of the water and of what lies to be discovered on the other side.” In fact, he did not, so the quote is entirely mine.
Back to Amsterdam, “Au bout du monde”, at the end of the world that is, before you set sail for the so called new spiritual world. At this spot you can admire this contemporary but wonderfully painted sign and where else could it be but along a canal advertising what else but a bookstore! Bookstores are rapidly declining in this city with the internet advancing into the field of bookselling.Deeper into the real story and deeper into the proverbial heart of this city of unadulterated combinations of commercial instinct and vague references to the Calvinist cause (not to be confused with the activities of the flesh taking place along some canals in the red light district) I came across this view.
I am not sure that this venture into strict commercial providence without divine intervention was appreciated by some in the neighborhood during that time, something we can conclude from the view below a mere stone throw away.
a simple slogan, put there only God knows when, of what the owner’s maxim was at the time, “God Is My Castle” (burg).
Look at this most unusual sight with its simple lettering. What a contrast we notice between what the two buildings convey. Both buildings convey a certain power to the naked eye, but beyond we find a different message.
For some of us the world is about size and size only, no matter how ornate the exquisite architectural impediments are that we see on these buildings shown below. Look at the smaller one in the second photo with a similar architectural detail to the buildings next to it.
Now imagine that you could google God and your exact position in the universe, in the precise center of it, where would it be? In a city, in the country or in between your ears?
What if those coordinates were wrong? Would your God be in the details only, or only at that very center of the right coordinates? What if you are on an Iraqi mountain and you were waiting to be saved, or if you live in Palmyra in Syria? Perhaps you are waiting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya? Is it possible that in some cases the coordinates do not work and some things are better left to the intervention of higher powers?
Man has been relegated to living in what seems like an instrument of a different architectural fantasy. His place in this new society becomes more uncertain as time goes on and he lives in utter uniformity in these cages, hidden below a thin veneer of jagged architectural beauty.There is nothing organic here.