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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Discover & explore: Sir Christopher Wren (Architecture)

Yesterday's Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook, led by Revd Sally Muggeridge, explored architecture and the achievements of Sir Christopher Wren. The service featured the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields singing Blessed is the man by Stainer, Cantate domino by Monteverdi, Locus iste by Bruckner and Nolo mortem peccatoris by Morley.

Next week's Discover & explore service is on Monday 23 January at 1.10pm when I, together with the Choral Scholars, will explore the theme of preaching through the teachings of the Puritan cleric, Thomas Watson.

Sally introduced yesterday's service by saying:

'It is perhaps understandable that buildings, and indeed cities, play a prominent role in the Bible. Indeed they play an important part in human development. Long before the industrial revolution, the invention of the internal combustion and jet engine, the motor car, the airplane and space travel building was the principal focus of man’s creativity. And not just two thousand years ago at the time of Jesus Christ, but right back in the book of Genesis we read ‘come let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly’. Even today a badly baked brick has no durability and strength. And buildings by their nature need careful planning, and must adhere to certain principles to ensure the safety of their occupants, and they must resist the extremes and variations of weather. So architecture, the planning and specification of buildings, is perhaps as old as man’s wish to build. But we also know we cannot look to any building, however majestic, for permanence. Buildings are by nature, like us, transitory, here today and gone tomorrow. In the search for true permanence and stability, in wishing to build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land, we must look to God.'

The Service included a bible reading from 1 Kings 6:

Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD. The porch in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits in length, corresponding to the width of the house, and its depth along the front of the house was ten cubits. Now these are the foundations which Solomon laid for building the house of God. The length in cubits, according to the old standard was sixty cubits, and the width twenty cubits. The width of the entrance was ten cubits and the sides of the entrance were five cubits on each side. And he measured the length of the nave, forty cubits, and the width, twenty cubits. And the house which King Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was three score cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits.

and the following extract from the acceptance speech of Thom Mayne as winner of the PritzkerPrize for Architecture:

'Architecture is a way of seeing, thinking and questioning our world and our place in it. It requires a natural inquisitiveness, an openess in our observations, and a will to act in affirmation. Like life, it is evolutionary, adapting, transforming, growing out of, but not enslaved by an over-investment in history.

The City is the most profound creation of humanity, continuously changing, evolving, mysterious and therefore in important ways unknowable - in its lack of fixity; in the unthinkable number of its random interactions, exchanges, encounters… in the sheer magnitude of the variety of intelligences. Here rests the potential of a true creativity where serendipity and spontaneous combustion take place. Our cities are the location of continuous regeneration, places of infinite possibilities, demanding from us an attitude of expansiveness. Yet we seem to find ourselves in this twenty-first century, infused by fear, immobilised by the complexity of the realities that come with living in the present… the now ... insisting instead on seeing our diverse society through a simplistic lens ... resistive to reality, demanding uniformity in the face of diversity.

And the refuge, as it has always been within these cycles, is in nostalgia—a desire for an illusion of order, consistency and safety, qualities we last enjoyed in childhood. But this is temporary. I’ve felt the intoxication that happens when an entire generation decides to stop looking backward for its direction. One needs to look to artists to remind us that we are all moving forward, empowered and able. I’m chasing an architecture that engages and demands inquiry. Architecture is not passive, not decorative. It is essential, it affects us directly and profoundly—it has the potential to impact behaviour and the quality of our everyday life.'


Locus iste - Anton Bruckner.

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