Thursday, 20 March 2014

200words: st paul's bow common

"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”" Gn28v16-17

In an I-Am-A-Monument effort to preempt its signification and pre-caption its portraiture, St Paul's Bow Common claims: 'This is the Gate of Heaven'. The unpearly threshold of this gated community, however, gives one to understand that Maguire and Murray intend a brave anarchic assault on our bourgeois presumptions about heaven through this wry caption. Yet, for me, wry becomes glib wherever their prudent frugality becomes ungenerous economy. Celebrated as humane brutalists, their work has a powerful beauty while also suffering regular Brutalist shortcomings of affected humility,  laboured austerity, wilful abstraction, iconoclastic disfigurement, fearsome monotony, formal introspection, defensive indestructability.  This protectivist bunker provides liturgical architecture for a world in a cold war, a bullet proof space for the huddled hoping for help, praying for escape, petitioning that the prismatic cupola topping their missile silo would slide aside and launch the faithful few into eternity. Rightly is Lutyen's Christ outraged. What is heaven here? St Paul's gives a foretaste of a platonic paradise, where the infinite isometric divine descends, suspended on steel sections. That same reactionary gnosticism gives rise to the ignominious plonkedness of the church's street comportment. And yet, on this blazing sunny Sunday, the great barn doors are yawned open to the buses rumbling by on Burdett Road, and a Heaven of hospitality leaks out. I love it.

St Paul's Bow Common
Best Modern Churches
Lutyen's Outraged Christ

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