Permanence and poetics: a monument to individual achievement, Washington, D.C.

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Have we lost the Art of Architecture? In this post-industrial epoch economics, capitalism, apathy, and popular culture are causing modern man to neglect aspects of his humanity. The essence of his existence and the quality of his life are quietly becoming a superficial image, T.S. Eliot sees this decay as the desacralization of modernity:

"(the) assertion is that no culture has appeared or developed except together with a religion ......I see no reason why the decay of culture should not proceed much further...."

Modernity has blinded man, he is unable to see any significance between reality or representation, poetry or banality, the eternal or the temporal. The ontological view of man is being lost to a historical view of man. Thus the actuality which gives meaning, significance, and value to man's existence - the poetics; and the actuality that transcends man over time - the eternal, are slowly being dissolved in a solution of neglect, opinion, and apathy.

Architecture is the making of sacred space. Permanence and poetics are the signification for Architecture and the sacred. The poetics are man's desire to express, create and understand meaning in this world. Being a significant act of man, this expression of the infinite, manifests itself in Architecture. This is the ability to transcend beyond the need for a basic shelter toward something which expresses the aspirations, desires, wisdom and tragedies of man. The eternal has both physical and spiritual attributes. The physical aspect is man's skill and ability to make things. By joining together material, structure, gravity and geometry man assembles an artifact with the intent that it will endure and weather over time. The spiritual aspect is man's memory of things compelled by his own mortality which leads him toward permanence.

Modern Architects are faced with the fact that their abilities are disappearing. The ability to define meaning, to profoundly seduce materials, to perform the ritual of construction and to mark a place - the ability to make a work of Architecture is slowly becoming extinct. If permanence and poetics cannot be reconciled with modernity, if man cannot create an artifact which is transcendent, existential, and eternal; the Art of Architecture - a language of man - will be lost.