Pathways: a monastery in the Allegheny River

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Architecture must go beyond merely sustaining and supporting our needs. It has the ability to enlighten and to enrich our lives. However, it cannot succeed when the origin lies in merely satisfying programmatic needs. The pathway to a rich and meaningful architecture begins by examining the symbols and rituals that are a part of our history as well as our everyday lives. These rituals and symbols can begin to form the framework or to generate the form and order of our architecture. Whether or not the inhabitants of our buildings are able to interpret our intentions is irrelevant. Individuals will find meaning as they live and experience life in our work.

For an individual to find meaning in the built world, our architecture must communicate to them. They must be able to understand the role or significance that a building plays in a larger built environment. There must be a language of material, form, and order that gives some buildings more significance than other others, and define that buildings role within a larger community. Architecture that has been generated from an understanding of the rituals and symbols of the institution it houses shall be able to communicate its meaning without the reliance on traditional icons.

The monastery is an institution with a history rich with symbolism that supports a way of life guided by ritual. The monastery is composed of individual structures vastly different in their role and significance that are brought together as a unified entity.