December 11, 2008

Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil wins Driehaus prize for Classical Architecture

A short time ago, the University of Notre Dame announced that they have awarded the Egyptian architect Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil the 2009 Driehaus Prize for Classical architecture. El-Wakil is rightly praised for his beautiful mosques and homes throughout the the Middle-East, and for his Islamic Studies Center at Oxford. The Oxford building is particularly beautiful and does an amazing job of blending classical Western forms with Middle Eastern motifs.

The Oxford Islamic Centre
Lost however in the justified praise for his buildings is the depth of El-Wakil's thought. I came across the following quotation at work the other day and found it particularly apt, considering what I said in the previous post.

"People who speak of origniality do not really mean to be original, they mean to be different. The very word originality means something going back to its origin. the true path of originality is the path extending from that from which all forms come. What people today mean by original is to be different in a very introverted and individualistic manner... All basic architecture especially the sacred, has followed archetypal forms which relate to cosmological order"
El-Wakil hits the nail on the head with this one. The originality that most architects seek is that of their own genius, the originality that El-Wakil seeks is found in the beginning and is found outside oneself.

This is the most fundemental distinction between the Modernist and the Classicist. The Modernist claims that forms are invented or created ex-nihilo by himself. The causes of beauty are whatever we say that they are because fundamentally beauty is only a product of our mind and our creation.

The Classicist on the other hand believes what we call beautiful is so because it IS. The forms, the order are pre-existent to our being and are actual and there to be found in nature. Beauty is not a construct of our mind, it is the comprehension of cosmological order. In art we imitate nature, not simply drawing animals and plants and such but rather, what we imitate in the highest arts (architecture and music) is the most ORIGINAL of things, the nature of the universe itself.

How do we do that? Well to do that we need to define beauty and how it relates to the universe and metaphysics. That however is too much to write on during my lunch break. More on this later.

1 comment:

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