A Definition of Symbiosis in Architecture

Architect Pierre Lahaye writes, “Symbiosis is defined as an interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, usually to the advantage of both. In the context of architecture, this translates into a view of the art of architecture as an expression of the spirit of an era. That is, buildings that are designed today should be part of the cultural heritage of future generations,” writes South African architect Pierre Lahaye

He published this definition in his essay, entitled, Symbiosis and Architecture, in the July 7, 2010 edition of Leading Architecture and Design. He suggests that South Africans embrace the symbiosis of European architecture with African motifs, thus fusing culturally different building designs into a unique architecture that exists for that region only. Lahaye notes, “Architecture does not express a single system of values; it is a conglomeration of many different value systems, or an order that embraces many diverse elements. Formal architectural modes of expression, sign and symbol will produce a multivalent and ambivalent meaning. The conscious manipulation of elements from different cultures will evoke meaning through difference and dysfunction.”

I would like to broaden this definition of architecture symbiosis to include the fusing of both old and new. Two examples that I have seen of my definition of symbiosis are the bar at the Hotel Telegrafo on the Plaza Mayor in Havana, Cuba and the “Dancing House” overlooking the Vitava River near the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic.

The idea of fusing old and new is much more common that the fusion of different cultural edifices. To me, this fusion proves that the former building can be updated in a unique way to the building’s original structure, providing new spaces and new uses for the original footprint.

The bar at the Hotel Telegrafo has incorporated the original internal arched support structure as a visible form in the renovated bar. The arches give support as well as define the space. They do not support a ceiling, giving the bar a much more airy and spacious appearance. New tile and bar furniture update the space into the 21st century, marrying old and new.

The Dancing House is now an iconic landmark in Prague, built in the 1990s, and designed by Croatian-born Czech architect Vlado Milunic in co-operation with Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry. The building’s site is significant because it sits on one of the sites bombed by the 8th American Air Force in February 1945. (See The Bombing of Prague: Was it a Mistake?)

Dancing House Gold Coin 2000 CZK
Courtesy, http://www.galinsky.com

The structure stands amid buildings dating back to the Neo-Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau periods. Rather than mixing cultures, this building mixes European architectural periods. (See Dancing House Building, Prague by Frank Owen Gehry) Unlike the bar at the Hotel Telegrafo, which incorporates both the old and the new, the Dancing House is the new, anchored against the older structures. Because the two parts of the building are so visually different, the structure is known as deconstructivism. For years considered controversial, the building has become so popular, it is now featured on a gold coin issued by the Czech National Bank in 2006.

Symbiosis is used mostly in biology, but I enjoy seeing such ideas spread to other disciplines, realizing that the pure definition can enhance new ideas in other realms.

via Daily Prompt: Symbiosis

What is Ordinary?

Sitting Forms, Bronze, Lynn Chadwick, Yerevan, Armenia, Copyright, SCH, 2014

ExtraordinaryNeiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Chanel

OrdinarySears, Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree

ExtraordinaryBentley, Range Rover, Cadillac, Lexus

OrdinaryToyota, Kia, Chevrolet, Ford

ExtraordinaryMansion, High-rise Apartment, Flat, Penthouse

Ordinary: Apartment, Row House, Tenement, Favela

Extraordinary: Sirloin Steak, Escargot, Fruit, Vegetables

OrdinaryPizza, Hamburger, Potato Chips, French Fries

ExtraordinaryApartment, Row House, Tenement, Favela

OrdinaryTent, Street, Cardboard, Bridge

Extraordinary: Healthy, Ambulatory

Ordinary: Sick, Crippled



Extraordinary: Life

Ordinary: Indifference


via Daily Prompt: Ordinary

Minimal Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter at his home, Finca Vigia, Havana, Cuba, copyright, SCH, 2016
Ernest Hemingway was the master of minimal writing. Clear. Concise. Brutally honest. His style cannot be copied effectively, but he does teach us that sometimes, when we communicate with a minimal amount of well-chosen words, our words relay the power of truth.
“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
Ernest Hemingway

via Daily Prompt: Minimal

Outside Labels

Courtesy, Psychology Today

Human beings are masters at labeling each other. New York University Assistant Professor of Marketing Adam Alter points out how labeling, based on our first glance can affect a person for years. In his article for Psychology Today, entitled Why It’s Dangerous to Label People, Alter discusses how labeling a person by general color of their skin, rather than the nuanced gradation of colors we all come in, engenders a specific cultural identification on the surface–a surface label that may not describe the person at all.

Alter uses the example of college students who are shown a video of a girl named Hannah, put in either a working class neighborhood or in a middle class suburban neighborhood, and answering questions. The college students, in this famous study by Princeton professors John Darley and Paget Gross, labeled the child an underachiever when she was presented in the working class neighborhood, but when presented with Hannah in the middle class neighborhood, labeled the child to be at least one grade higher than when she was seen in the poorer surroundings.

Such profound labeling can affect all but the most confident or, perhaps, narcissistic of persons.
When we believe the labels put on us, we either rise or lower to that expectation.

We are so very much more than the labels we outwardly project.

via Daily Prompt: Label

Photo Challenge–Atop, Cuban Version

Trinidad, Cuba, November 2016, copyright, SCH

The Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco in Trinidad, Cuba, is no more. Left standing are a few outer buildings and yellow and green bell tower. “Built in 1813 by the Franciscans,” according to Planetware.com, “this former convent was taken over and turned into a parish church in the mid 1800s and later became a jail before much of the structure was torn down in the 1920s.” Climbing to the top of the tower gives one a view of the picturesque valley below and the charming colonial town of Trinidad. It is a picture of a place and time that once existed, and still exists at this moment, but one which is rapidly moving into the 21st century.

Photo Challenge: Atop



The Voice of the Non-Church-Going Evangelical

Courtesy, The Atlantic Monthly, April 2017

Maybe Peter Beinart’s article in the April 2017 edition of The Atlantic has finally answered my BIG question. What is my BIG question? It has to do with Donald Trump and the fundamentalist/evangelical tie-in.

I’ve never seen the rise of such a demagogue in connection with the tenets of Christianity in my life. In reality, many Christians end up following all manner of so-called Christian leaders. Televangelists would not exist without their ardent followers. Pat Robertson, James Hagee, Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen are just a few who come to mind. Yet, the rise of Donald Trump as a stand-in for a Christian leader has my brain literally hurting.

Now Beinart gives us a perspective on this political/religious phenomenon and it’s the only idea that even begins to make sense to me. In his article, Breaking Faith, Beinart introduces us to the non-church-going Christian.

Although he notes that the nation’s growing “Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization,” it is also leaving behind those more extreme conservatives in our country, “making America’s partisan clashes more brutal.”

These partisan clashes, notes Beinart, have, “contributed to the rise of both Donald Trump and the so-called alt-right movement, whose members see themselves as proponents of white nationalism.”

Need more proof? According to the Pew Research Center poll in March 2016, “Trump trailed Ted Cruz by 15 points among Republicans who attended religious services every week. But he led Cruz by a whopping 27 points among those who did not.”

Beinart cites The University of Notre Dame American History professor Geoffrey C. Layman  as noting, “Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church.”

So Ted Cruz represented those institutionalized Christians whom you would normally see in church pews every Sunday. Apparently, Donald Trump represents a more disenfranchised Christian, who appears to have a more darker, much bleaker life.

Beinart suggests that “culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.”

Another trend could be responsible for this outcome, as Beinart notes:

Since the early 1970s, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college. And even within the white working class, those who don’t regularly attend church are more likely to suffer from divorce, addiction, and financial distress. As Wilcox explains, “Many conservative, Protestant white men who are only nominally attached to a church struggle in today’s world. They have traditional aspirations but often have difficulty holding down a job, getting and staying married, and otherwise forging real and abiding ties in their community. The culture and economy have shifted in ways that have marooned them with traditional aspirations unrealized in their real-world lives.”

In my opinion, this disengaged group of white, lower to middle class Americans are the danger to a progressive, liberal, tolerant and inclusive society. As Beinart writes, “when cultural conservatives disengage from organized religion, they tend to redraw the boundaries of identity, de-emphasizing morality and religion and emphasizing race and nation. Trump is both a beneficiary and a driver of that shift.”

So this explains the rise of nationalism in our country. It explains why so many of our former highly-paid factory workers blame the loss of manufacturing jobs on the growth of multinational corporations and the immigrant population. It explains why it seems more important for the executive branch to build a wall and fund the military, keeping out those who do not conform to the 1950s ideal household–white, traditional, male/female, married, Christian. But what leads the white, working man and woman to want to “Make America Great Again” by wanting to set the clock back by decades?  Beinart notes that, “When conservatives disengage from organized religion, however, they don’t become more tolerant. They become intolerant in different ways. Research shows that evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church are less hostile to gay people than those who do. But they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims.”

Beinart also discusses the rise of Bernie Sanders among the most liberal non-religious group, as well as the rise of the new civil rights movement among African-Americans, known collectively as Black Lives Matter. and how that movement is upending the traditional Black church culture.

We are in the middle of a major ideological upheaval in which the dominant culture from 50-70 years ago is dissolving–white, working class, Christian, industrial. In its place, is the post-industrial, secular, scientific, global, multi-cultural world. But the old order will not go down without a fight.

Donald Trump has risen as the leader of the disenfranchised, middle American, caught up in a protectionist, nationalistic, anti-intellectual movement, looking inward away from progress, multiculturalism and secularism. Christianity is a mask the Luddite wears, which hides intolerance, anti-Semitism and racism. The pendulum swings…



Pattern in Architecture

The Japanese, in my opinion, are masters at the art of subtle patterns in their architecture. Take the Miho Museum, located in Shinga Prefecture, near the town of Shingaraki, southeast of Kyoto. Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei designed this spectacular museum to house the multi-cultural art collection of Mihoko Koyama, a wealthy Japanese textile heiress. Lines and triangles criss-cross the building, nestled securely in a green, lush valley. For me, these patterns are soothing, monumental and inspiring.

Copyright, SCH, 2016, Miho Museum, Shinga Prefecture, Japan

Daily Prompt: Pattern

The Road Taken-The Tiger’s Nest Monastery

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Paro, Bhutan, copyright, SCH 2017

A 2-1/2 hour journey for the average human, add 30+ minutes for the non-average American (taking into account the extra poundage from a sedentary life style), a moderately steep climb to the cafeteria, then many stairs down to a crook in the valley, then about half as many stairs up to the monastery, and you are there, at 10,240 ft., at the most sacred place in Bhutan, Paro Taksang, or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro, Bhutan. Breathe. Photo copyright SCH, 2017.

Read about the National Geographic Society’s visit in Ascending Bhutan’s Sacred Tiger’s Nest

via The Road Taken: The Tiger’s Nest Monastery