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Strengthen America - build a church!

  1. Sep 7, 2005 #1

    honestrosewater

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    Strengthen America - build a church! :)

    I have an old book on civilization aptly titled Civilization by Kenneth Clark. He suggests that the key to a successful civilization is confidence - confidence in a bright future for the society, a sense of energy, vigor, vitality, and permanence. It's permanence that most interests me now.

    He names three explosions of civilization: ~3000 BC - Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indus Valley; ~600 BC - Ionia, Greece, India; ~1100 AD - World, esp. Western Europe. To me, the architecture of these civilizations, their grand pyramids, temples, and cathedrals, screams confidence and permanence. I find Greece's ruins and Europe's cathedrals especially moving. (Has anyone here actually visited any?)

    In my part of Florida, there's nothing anywhere near that. Everything is built for the moment, economical, cookie cutter, they throw them up and tear them down. I can't imagine any buildings around here still being here a thousand years from now, not even a few hundred years from now. This isn't something that I've just now noticed either - and it's depressing.

    Have you noticed this where you live? Do you think that the quickening pace of technology (or other things) has made us not want to invest in those built-to-last projects? I notice this kind of thinking in other areas. Why invest in a new car, computer, cell phone? A better model will come out next year, month, week.
    I think that a sense of permanence from our architecture could make up for a lot of the other disposable things in our modern lives. Just imagine having something of this magnitude in your town. I think it's inspiring. What do you guys think?

    (Just kidding about the church thing; :wink: the cathedrals just happen to be a very impressive example.)
     
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  3. Sep 7, 2005 #2

    loseyourname

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    Well, there was a new cathedral built in Los Angeles a few years back. It didn't seem to really lift anybody's spirits, though. Even the local Catholic population, for the most part, seemed to prefer that money going toward helping the city's homeless. Then again, you could say that such thinking is just of the myopic malady. Providing food and shelter for homeless people will help them out for all of a year at best, then they'll be back on the streets. For all we know, this cathedral could be here for a couple hundred years. I doubt it, though, and I don't find it all that inspiring besides. The huge LDS temple in Century City is much more impressive.

    One thing to remember, at least on the west coast, though, is that a large part of the reason large, impressive buildings were never built here - there really weren't even any skyscrapers until the 80's - is earthquakes. There wasn't until recently any way of building anything very large that didn't stand a good chance of coming down.

    There are some very nice, iconic pieces of architecture in other parts of the country, though. Just a quick list off the top of my head:

    St. Patrick's cathedral, the Empire State Building, Grant's Tomb, the Plaza Hotel, and the new WTC (once it's built) in New York City.

    Independence Hall and the City Hall with William Penn at the top in Philadelphia (the Museum of Art, with the statue of Rocky at the top of the steps, is my personal favorite and gets an honorable mention).

    The Washington Monument and White House, along with Lincoln and Jefferson's memorials in DC.

    The Sears Tower and Hancock Center in Chicago are pretty iconic.

    The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

    The world's tallest cross in Gideon, TX is a neat attraction when you're bored out of your mind out on the I-40.

    The Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges are especially iconic.

    The St. Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles is one of the top ten photographed buildings in the entire world.

    Although they chronicle a rather shameful past, the missions in California are a huge part of the state identity, and have stood since colonial times (they're probably the oldest structures in the entire United States).

    If you count Mt. Rushmore as architecture, that is definitely built to last.

    Really, though, the only city that's ever gotten this iconic architecture thing right in the US is New York, even though it's also the most guilty of continually tearing down and building new structures. The city is one hell of a site to behold driving up on it, and looks like the Emerald City shooting straight up out of the sea from the harbor.

    Oh yeah, how could I forget the Statue of Liberty, and the Space Needle up in Seattle. The only thing I can think of in Florida is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa, unless you count Disneyworld.
     
  4. Sep 7, 2005 #3

    EnumaElish

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    A feeling of confidence should not be confused with a show of permanence. I think a case can be (and may have been) made that many a civilization, state, organization, etc. invested in shows of permanence exactly when their future had started to get dimmer.

    P.S. What about highways, overpasses, bridges, dams, industrial plants, mines, airports, seaports, towers, pylons, water distribution systems?
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2005
  5. Sep 7, 2005 #4

    selfAdjoint

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    One of the reasons for so little monumental architecture in the US is that we have made a particular choice in the "strong, pretty, cheap, any two" stakes. The early nineteenth century discovery of the balloon frame building technique enabled people of modest means to build homes across the continent. And the modern pole building technique has housed an explosion of small in medium businesses in rural and semi-rural areas. This doesn't, however, make for a lasting, much less a heartening architecture. (Unless like me sometimes you can abstract your "heartening" from the view before you to thoughts of the human conditions behind the view).

    Joseph Needham, author of the great multivolume Science and Civilization in China described sitting on a stone bench above a rural canal scene somewhere in China, and noticing it was inscribed to the memory of the mandarin who had built the canal. Both canal and inscription were centuries old, and Needham reflected that no individual's contribution so humble and useful would still be memorialized in the west a few hundred years later.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2005
  6. Sep 8, 2005 #5

    honestrosewater

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    Yeah, the Sunshine Skyway is pretty from a distance. I haven't crossed it in ages - don't like driving on bridges. I guess NYC and DC are decent examples. I'm talking about buildings (and I suppose all infrastructue) where people live and work. The buildings that we spend our daily lives in: homes, office buildings, libraries, schools, stores, parks, etc.

    I get the feeling that people think building for the centuries is not practical or worth the investment, and that's what I'm questioning: Is it not worth the investment? Could we make it practical with better planning and cooperation? Would living in and amongst buildings that could still be standing - and that people would want to maintain - for centuries to come have a positive effect on your daily lives? They wouldn't need to be especially beautiful or ornate, just substantial, made with care and an emphasis on craftsmanship; structures that you feel are like heirlooms. I don't know whether I would eventually cease to be inspired by my surroundings if I lived somewhere like Rome, but I know that living in and amongst disposable buildings is depressing; There's no reason to care for or about them. And the lack of care or investment that went into them is, well, not quite repulsive but at least disheartening.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2005
  7. Sep 8, 2005 #6

    honestrosewater

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    Yes, maybe. But I didn't mean throwng up monuments and such; I meant everyday, ordinary structures. The idea isn't for the government or such to make a fake show of power but for the whole community to express the belief that their society is going to last by investing in structures that are also going to last.
    Okay, sure, some of those are built to last. I don't discount them completely, but I don't think they make as much of a difference in people's daily lives as, say, a school or commerical center.
     
  8. Sep 8, 2005 #7
    domeofahome.com
     
  9. Sep 8, 2005 #8

    honestrosewater

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    You and those dome homes. :tongue2: I did happen to see him give a tour of the home last hurricane season when a news crew rode out one the hurricanes with him.
     
  10. Sep 8, 2005 #9
    Yeah, I heard about that. It looks like they are not on this year's Dome tour, but the brand-new Safe Harbor Dome is:
    monolithicdome.com/dometour/list.html

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Sep 10, 2005 #10

    Pengwuino

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    Well think about how much money it would cost to build a house entirely out of marbel or various other structural materials they use to use. Plus think about how uncomfortable it woudl be and how long it would take to build.

    Thats one thing thats great about Catholicism though. We have built a hell of a lot of incredible structures. Theres a church nearby I use to go to. Its only 100 years old but its still a great structure compared to everything around it. Theres a new church uptown that rivals our city hall in size and is far more awe-inspiring then the city hall (and the stupid city hall looks like an alien space ship.... funny story behind that). Don't know what religion is there but its pretty big. But of course, the hell if I could ever be in these places for more then 3 hours a week. Cold... kinda intimidating if your alone.... uncomfortable... but i love the organs!
     
  12. Sep 10, 2005 #11

    Pengwuino

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    I think im the only person in the US whos utterly unimpressed by the golden gate bridge and the space needle.
     
  13. Sep 11, 2005 #12

    honestrosewater

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    We wouldn't have to use any particular materials or anything; The options are completely open - whatever works best.
    Let me put this another way. Let's say that building 10 structures with 50-year lifespans (over 500 years) costs the same as building 1 structure with a 500-year lifespan. Why would a society choose the former? The latter? And what effect does this choice have on the people living in those structures?
     
  14. Sep 11, 2005 #13

    Pengwuino

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    The options aren't completely open really. A lot of victorian era buildings are in some real bad shape and need to be restored once in a while while some ancient buildings withstood the test of time in incredible ways.
     
  15. Sep 11, 2005 #14

    honestrosewater

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    I mean that I am not putting any restrictions on what materials could be used or how the structures are designed or anything like that. I'm only interested in the (expected) lifespan of the buildings.
     
  16. Sep 11, 2005 #15
    Modern structures engineered to last for centuries

    Tensile-reinforced concrete structures can easily be engineered to last a mean of 500 years. The Roman Pantheon is 1,900 years old. We know how it was constructed and we know how to duplicate it.
    monolithic.com/thedome/pantheon

    [​IMG]

    "[...]even if the Monolithic Dome is left with no maintenance it will last for centuries[...]"
    monolithic.com/pres/build_to_last
     
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