Monday, January 20, 2014

Pretentious Lessons in Architecture I: The Door

The door and the wall. The door reveals the condition of the wall. Darkness and light. The darkness reveals the condition of the light. The light penetrates and unmasks the darkness. Its reflection and re-reflection illuminate, define and materialize the space,  this contained volume of air.

The opening opens the wall to these transactions. The controlled passage between darkness and light, the controlled interchange of darkness and light. The ornamented thickness of the cut in the wall frames and mediates this interchange, vibrating between light and shadow.

We see how the opening has been taken out of the wall, like parting a curtain, the force used to separate the weight of the wall bearing down to one side and the other. The vault of the opening springs up like an invisible force-field.

The wall holds the rest of the light back, like a dam, offering protection. The wall holds the darkness in like a cave.

The light is clarity, marking limits; darkness remains undefined, potentially mysterious, inviting or threatening. The light is sensual pressure, it caresses, scalds; the darkness is immersion - refreshing, chilling....

The compliment to the first photo: the dark portal seen from the brilliant light of the courtyard: darkness framed, revealed, contained. The Baroque door, negotiating the transit between the facade, or face of the building and its hidden interior, presenting face, representing.

The figure in the doorway: framed, presented, giving face - illuminated by the light of the courtyard, with the contrasting darkness of the doorway behind, like the portraits of Velázquez with their dark, neutral backgrounds that are nevertheless buzzing with light and spatial depth. The knight in the doorway at the back of Velázquez's Las Meninas, regarding the scene, returning our own regard. He steps throught the door, he emerges, guarding his back, presenting his face.

The doorway is an orifice, a mouth, a mask. It dignifies, qualifies those who emerge from it, it attracts, receives those who enter.

Enter here, but first contemplate my presence, my dignity, my grandeza. Feel welcome, protected. Pass through this threshold and be with us in peace. 

The Alhambra
Photographers: Rebecca Cohn and Scott Finkelstein
January 2014

For more of this stuff, see my unpublished article on Old Madrid in this blog.

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