“Vision for a plan to build 2A International Center in near future”

An Interview with Norman Crowe

By Ahmad Zohadi

May 2020

 

ncrowe@nd.edu 

  1. World’s Greatest Current and Future Needs:  The Center should reflect a resolute commitment to the global environmental crisis and social justice concerns as related transcendent challenges.  As a center for thoughtful, respectful, optimistic dialog it must convey a sense of harmony throughout.
  • InteriorsInterior spaces housing the Center’s designated functions should enclose a garden that represents an idealization of nature and the Man-made in harmony with one another.  Each space of the building should enjoy a view into the garden, with those views varying in character from one space to another.
  • GardenThe garden itself should symbolize the Creation, for instance as did the ancient Persian walled paradise garden with its quadrants of creation and symbolic water courses as rivers of life; or the Hellenistic temple of Apollo at Didyma where the un-roofed cella was entered by tunnels emerging into the light from below, and which contained a world-within-a-world of sacred tree and miniature temple; or the Zen inspired dry (karesansui) garden with its symbolic ocean of life and islands of being.  This is to say that the garden should, while unified in form, be capable of yielding symbolic cosmological references to visitors from all parts of the world.  Note that this suggestion to place the garden within the Center rather than the Center “in a garden setting”, is to assert the importance of the center’s integration within an urban fabric and to present the garden as idealized, symbolic, and metaphorical.
  • LightThe enclosure of the building itself, as well as the garden, should engage a tactile sense of the cosmos as interpreted through light.  Solstices and equinoxes may be recorded at a central place within by mean of a focused skylight, a gnomon with an accompanying solar calendar inscribed in the pavement in the garden, or a sun and season tracking device in the garden such as an armillary sphere.  Light from the sun, changing throughout the year, and at night the stars and moon, should hold a privileged presence in the architecture as well and garden.
  • Environmental ResponsibilityPassiveenergy design should be clearly expressed in such devices as adjustable louvered openings, light shelves, projecting shading devices, photo-voltaic panels on the roof, etc.—together reflecting the interface between nature and humankind and rendering the complex as sustainable and carbon neutral.
  • TraditionThe building and its appurtenances should evoke traditional human ingenuity at solving the interface between nature and human environment as has been accomplished across human history by harmonious, sustainable inventions.  The building must not be designed as an evokative high-tech exercise, but rather by combining contemporary high-tech measures with tradition so that it may evoke the best of human creativity across historic time.
  • Character The design and character of the complex must avoid the common practice in the design of iconic buildings to yield to current avant-gardism or signature architecture.  Quiet timelessness must always be a part of guiding objectives.
  1. Spatial Qualities, Programs, Methods, and Atmosphere:  The building, site-walls, openings, and interior spaces should be part of an overall geometry that adjusts distinct architectural elements into a unified ensemble.
  • Unity  Examplesof classical architectural “systems” that seek a sense of unity may inform the design of the Center.  Such classical constructs that may be consulted are, for instance, Greco-Roman Classicism, and architecture regulated by the Sung Dynasty Building Standards (Ying-tsao Fa-shih), and architecture of the Sukaya tradition, and the Sufi tradition as manifest in ancient Persian architecture and its descendants.  While the Center should not be designed to reflect a specific tradition such as one of as these, it should, like those traditions, evoke a quest for timelessnes.
  • Integration The Center should be integrated into the fabric of an urban context, rather than to be placed as a stand-alone monument outside an urban community.  Integration into the fabric of life around it would help to enforce its role as both a center and a part of larger things, expanding outward to the world community.
  • AtmosphereSpatial qualities should be inviting, open, commodious, filled with light.  Natural materials, clearly but respectfully drawn from nature, should predominate.  Selection and use of materials should reinforce the sense of harmony, as opposed to today’s more frequent practice of introducing a proliferation of materials, a practice inspired by commercialization and consumerism.  The farther the character of the Center is from a commercial atmosphere the greater its capacity to evoke a sense of transcendency.
  • RespectThe complex should emphasize quiet, introspective, sensitive reflection for visitors to the Center.
  1. Methods for Promotion of Architectural/Cultural Dialogue:  (see “Atmosphere” under no. 2 above and “Connecting” in no. 4 below).
  2. A Place to Facilitate Connection Between People and to Motivate a Spiritually Inspired Architecture and Art  
  • Connecting  Exhibitions, both from a permanent collection and from traveling works should be designed to reinforce a point of view that promotes a spiritual sensibility, while workshops and invited lectures may be organized around those exhibitions.
  • International ScopeWorkshops, exhibitions, and lecture presentations should represent a broadly international, global, range of ideas and inspiration and thereby stimulate a dialog that entertains a broad perspective on spirituality and transcendence for architecture, landscape design, art, and performance.