In pursuit of beauty and architecture

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 3:45pm

I can recall the very first time I was really amazed by architecture: my Ukrainian Orthodox church at home. It was Orthodox Christmas, I was six and I could not understand one word of Ukrainian. So I decided to stare at the shining, psychedelic colors on the ceiling that outlined Jesus’ face and the twenty-foot stain glass windows that hovered around the church’s walls. I don’t know if I was more overwhelmed by the foreignness of the religion and the language, or if it was the colossal structure I was standing in.

That same feeling hits me when I walk past Philadelphia’s City Hall ­­— something I have done countless times. Every time I pause, look up and stare for about five minutes, and if I’m not in a hurry, I’ll end up sitting on a bench and gazing at it for least another five minutes. I will stroll into the atrium where the lion’s head shoots daggers at me while I observe the high-relief sculptures of founding fathers and scholars.

The symmetry, specificity and beauty of architecture has and always will astonish me. I believe these two places were where my passion for architecture was born, even though I am nowhere close to being an architect. However, architecture, a topic that can fall under urban planning, civil engineering or even geometry, is a topic that I consider pure art.

In pursuit of this appreciation for architecture, I decided to take History of Art 101: Great Monuments. The class focused on international landmarks, the advancement of architecture from Stonehenge to both of the Notre Dames and the effects of historic architecture that still resides in modern day buildings. In this class, I fell in love with the Santiago de Compostela (1075 CE) and Hagia Sophia (532 CE), where I was fascinated that people of that time could design such stalwart structures with unimaginable allure.

And even after being exposed to these enormous creations, I can still have that same feeling of fascination when I enter smaller, local places like the Michigan Theater or Rackham Auditorium. Their ceiling designs and spacious layout is beyond admirable to me, and it allows me to think of how I want to present my own art.

As peculiar as it may sound, I find a distinct connection between architecture and writing. The individuality, miniscule detail, use of space (in terms of setting, characters and narrator vs. reader) and the overall idea of leaving an impression on someone can be applied to both the craft of architecture and the written word. I get the same feeling when I see the Lincoln Memorial as I do when I read Vonnegut — this empowering emotion that ignites artistic inspiration for myself.

After learning about such famous churches in Europe like the Sagrada Família or Saint-Chapelle, I always think back to my Ukrainian church. Altogether, all of these original, astounding pieces of art inspire me to write about my own unique life as someone who was raised with three religions.

And as for City Hall, I will soon be back in Philadelphia with my journal in hand, and I will write the thoughts that stir in my mind while I stare at this key symbol of our nation’s history and Philadelphia’s birth. Most of the time, it leaves me speechless, but with architecture as my muse, I will be sure to create some form of writing out of my ineffable experience.