In a book written by Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, several fundamental elements of nature are outlined which can provide meaning and significance to people of various beliefs and faiths. Though particular interpretations may vary, these fundamental elements are often transcendent. These elements can also provide a basis for architecture:
The sky shows itself as the reality that it is: infinite and transcendent. Quite simply, the sky is a reality apart from the environment man exists upon. The quality of its mere height and infinite expanse is revealed to the man at once both to the intellect and the soul; its symbolism allows man to realize his place in the universe. "The sky symbolizes transcendence, power and changelessness simply by being there. It exists because it is high, infinite, immovable, powerful." Luis Barragan stated, "The sky is the true facade of a house." This reference denotes the house as man's mark on the earth while the sky is his relation to the cosmos.

The sun is a constant, recurring element. Its patterns are known and easily traceable creating temporal rhythms which reflect the change of the seasons and the passage of the days. It is the source of energy for the life forms of the Earth. It is the source of light for vision and energy for growth and warmth. The Greeks held light as the source of intellect and creativity. Christianity connects light with love and the "Divine Light."

While the sun is an immediate constant, the moon alters and varies in its appearance. The phase of the moon expresses growth, maturity, decay, and death. The moon follows a pattern of appearance, but it is not as regular as the sun. Its variations in appearance more closely parallels the daily routine of man which is prone to variation. The moon is a living time with associations of fertility, periodic regeneration, time and destiny, change, and the opposition of light and dark. The moon is the heavenly body associated with life.

Water is significant because of its formlessness and potential, it symbolizes the primal substance from which all life has emerged. Its formless quality represents a pre-existence of life before emerging into a true form. Its potential lies in its fertilizing qualities; it has the ability for creation and the encouragement life and growth. Psychoanalytic evidence also suggests that frequent contact with water can be therapeutic and bring the individual closer to the unconscious processes of life. The human species at one time emerged from the water during development.

Stones posses a hardness, ruggedness, and permanence which is unique. It is an imperishable material. A stone simply is. "Its strength, its motionlessness, its size, and its strange outlines are none of them human; they indicate the presence of something that fascinates, terrifies, attracts, and threatens all at once." Mountains are the greatest examples of stones; their height draws them towards the sky while physical distance from humans makes them places of special value.

The earth is viewed as the mother of all beings: "Mother Earth." The earth is fertile, and is the provider and unifier for all beings upon its surface. The earth is of the primeval pair: Heaven and Earth. The sky is the realm of the unattainable and perfection while the earth remains at the realm of humankind.

Like the mountain, the tree is an element of nature which aspires towards the heavens, but it is a living form. The tree exists in both realms, but relies upon many factors for its survival: water for fertility, sunlight for energy, the earth for it roots. The tree is also symbolic of the life process and the passage of time by re-enacting the cycle of birth and death each year through the sprouting of new leaves in the spring and loss in the fall.

Design Process

EmailEmail home