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Why are people so fascinated with classical architecture?

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Volunteer

Many of the classical buildings of antiquity are remarkable for the art incorporated within. The Sistine Chapel is quite bland on the outside. What would Adolf "ornament is a crime" Loos say about the ceiling?

Mark Miller, I hope you meant "classical pavilions" on the Lawn at UVA?

Jul 2, 15 10:26 am  · 
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tintt

I see that the rotunda and il gesu are now the same style. No wonder people are so confused and don't really care about what architects think. Sorry for the snark, but I gotta. 

Jul 2, 15 10:33 am  · 
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Volunteer

I thought we were discussing classical architecture and contemporary examples of the same? Was there a hidden secret message I missed?

Jul 2, 15 10:36 am  · 
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tintt

I guess what I am not understanding is how Il Gesu is classical.

Jul 2, 15 10:41 am  · 
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Typo noted, as I trust the "k" was.

Jul 2, 15 10:44 am  · 
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tintt

Maybe I am over-differentiating.

I studied in Rome, I can't throw it all in together as Classical, but I guess I see that the use of some vocabularies like the columns can mean a building is "classical" Sorry, carry on. 

Jul 2, 15 10:45 am  · 
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Tintt, that was my point before. It's old- it's roman- it must be classical. Even if it's not, it just needs to be called that.

So why which buildings are deemed classical versus not, there's an interesting question. 

Jul 2, 15 10:58 am  · 
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tintt

So why which buildings are deemed classical versus not, there's an interesting question. 

I feel I know the answer to this, it isn't so hard. Classical, in the western sense of course, is of the style of Greek or the Romans who copied them, of the era of classical antiquity. It was architecture born of this time, contemporary to the people and their beliefs, technologies, knowledge, values, etc. The Renaissance was a rebirth of classicism, so related, but differentiated. Neoclassicism was another revival. There are contemporary architects who design in this manner, which is a form of mannerism, meaning in the manner of.

Jul 2, 15 11:13 am  · 
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Volunteer

The baroque style of El Gesu is an outgrowth of classicism. A stunning example of the baroque style is the Frauenkirche in Dresden whose rebuilding was completed in 2005 following bombing in WW II.

Jul 2, 15 11:58 am  · 
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Tintt said:

Classical, in the western sense of course, is of the style of Greek or the Romans who copied them, of the era of classical antiquity. It was architecture born of this time, contemporary to the people and their beliefs, technologies, knowledge, values, etc

 

This is the framework I learned, so what's the cutoff? The Renaissance-as the Age of Enlightenment- is not classical, but if it is a derivative why are we not talking about buildings that are more Roccoco in technique? Quondam gets to the point with the argument that often what we call classical is based on an ideal of what classical is-or should be. 

So what's the metric for that evaluation? The tricky part is that you can't rely upon scale, proportion, etc- otherwise a lot of early 20th century will sneak in (and we can't have that...).

Jul 2, 15 2:26 pm  · 
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TIQM

Classicism (and Modernism, for that matter) is not a "style", it is a cultural and aesthetic philosophy.  When we say a building is "classical", it exhibits the attributes that exemplify the aesthetic philosophy of classicism.  This is what is properly meant by "the classical ideal". 

Buildings can do that in many ways.  Greek, Roman, High Rennaissance, Mannerist, Baroque, Neoclassical, Beaux-Arts, Greek Revival, Federal, Georgian, various forms of Art Deco, regional vernacular styles - these styles all are classical, because, if they are done well, they exemplify the philosophy of classicism.  They may have explicit expression of the orders, in the form of elements like columns and entablatures...or they may not.

To be "classical" does not mean that a building needs to be of the same scale, form or material as a Greek temple.  Any more than to be "modernist" a building needs to have the same scale, form or materials as the Farnsworth House.

Jul 2, 15 3:52 pm  · 
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Eke, a spec McMansion fashioned under any of those you listed. Certainly at the least its a vernacular but is it classical? And wasn't part of deco's intention was to reject the tenets of classicism?

 

and who decides "it's good?"

Jul 2, 15 3:59 pm  · 
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TIQM

If people are interested in contemporary classical architecture, particularly in the public realm, a great place to start would be the work of any of the Driehaus Prize recipients.  The Driehaus Prize is the classical version of the Pritzker Prize.  I'd particularly look at the work of the following Driehaus recipients:

Demetri Porphyrios

Quinlan Terry

Allan Greenberg

Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil

Thomas H. Beeby

Pier Carlo Bontempi

David M. Schwarz

 

The Meadows Museum, SMU, by Thomas Beeby:

Dupont Hall, Univ of Delaware, Allan Greenberg:

Masjid al-Qiblatain Mosque, Saudi Arabia, by Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil"

Jul 2, 15 4:18 pm  · 
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tintt

There is only one set of culture that did classical architecture, the rest are mannerist or -esques, overlaid with other technologies, beliefs and ideals, therefore differentiated. It isn't an opinion, it is what we learned in class from the experts who make the classifications. Anything done today that uses the vocabulary of such is "in the manner of". Same with modernism actually. It happened in the past. Sounds like this could be another traditional vs modern thread. WHY?

Jul 2, 15 4:19 pm  · 
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TIQM

Who decides any piece of architecture is good?

Jul 2, 15 4:19 pm  · 
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TIQM

Classical houses designed by a friend of mine, Gil Schafer:

Jul 2, 15 4:26 pm  · 
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tintt

But I thought classicism was all about beautiful proportions... cue buzzer sound. 

Jul 2, 15 4:34 pm  · 
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TIQM

"There is only one set of culture that did classical architecture, the rest are mannerist or -esques, overlaid with other technologies, beliefs and ideals, therefore differentiated. It isn't an opinion, it is what we learned in class from the experts who make the classifications. Anything done today that uses the vocabulary of such is "in the manner of". Same with modernism actually. It happened in the past. Sounds like this could be another traditional vs modern thread. WHY?"

I know that's what they taught you in architecture school, but you should be aware that the "historicist" point of view is not necessarily "true", it's a filter that you are using to try to make sense the data, and there are other ways to look at it. 

If Classicism and Modernism are not styles, or historical events, but philosophies, then they are not inherently temporal, particularly if you believe, as I do, that human nature has not changed significantly since ancient times.

Jul 2, 15 4:37 pm  · 
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TIQM

"But I thought classicism was all about beautiful proportions... cue buzzer sound. "

I'm sorry, I'm not understanding your point here.

Jul 2, 15 4:38 pm  · 
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tintt

The flower pots... they are tiny.

The pediment is... monstrous. But I don't want to pick on someone's work who didn't ask for it, that isn't nice.

If you say human nature hasn't changed, that is indeed where many will depart thought paths with you, myself included. In many ways it hasn't, I know, I know. I live in a 126 year old house. So it could be considered classical I suppose by the looser definition and I love it because it has good natural lighting and airflow. It has huge windows and tall ceilings and sits on the site well with great views and it has a great relationship with its neighborhood and neighbors. It is small in footprint but large in size. It is adaptable. I wish these to be qualities of all buildings myself. 

Jul 2, 15 4:49 pm  · 
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TIQM

How has human nature changed?

Jul 2, 15 4:55 pm  · 
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Volunteer

EKE, The Gil Schafer classical houses are beautiful, I have his recent book; thanks for posting.

Jul 2, 15 5:05 pm  · 
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tintt

EKE, our tools have changed. Our knowledge has changed. Communications. Beliefs. Understandings. Laws. Technologies. Expectations. Capacities. Our brains have changed. Our diets have changed. Light has changed. Shopping has changed. Agriculture has changed. Transportation. I could go on, and on.

Jul 2, 15 5:15 pm  · 
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Human nature changes through changes in cognition. There are far more disciplined scientific treatises that frequently reference iq as a mean to track this, but here is my favorite speculation given its literary (not dense science) exploration of this.

Jul 2, 15 5:27 pm  · 
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TIQM

Tintt:  None of those things you listed are part of our nature as human beings.  At the core, we are not our tools, our technology.  We not our customs, or our cultures.  These things are transient, ever evolving reflections of our nature, which is enduring and largely unchanging.

By the way, this is a key difference between the philosophies of modernism and classicism.  As a classicist, I am much more interested in how we are the same as our ancestors, that I am how we are different.

Jul 2, 15 5:33 pm  · 
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tintt

Understood, EKE. But I think we are entwined with our technology and tools, and our buildings are too. It is all an interface. 

Jul 2, 15 5:46 pm  · 
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curtkram

http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/kids-losing-social-skills-due-to-smartphones-1-3519743

These stories are everywhere.  I might have gone with 'video games cause violence' too.

Or, better yet, go to the `a Florida man` twitter

Jul 2, 15 5:51 pm  · 
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curtkram

Also, I don't think it's fair for you to say that mosque is classical.  It's a beautiful work of architecture developed from mid-eastern designs.  They have a right to be proud their own work without you trying to fold it into western tradition.

Jul 2, 15 5:54 pm  · 
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Good_Knight

EKE said, "

Classicism (and Modernism, for that matter) is not a "style", it is a cultural and aesthetic philosophy.  When we say a building is "classical", it exhibits the attributes that exemplify the aesthetic philosophy of classicism.  This is what is properly meant by "the classical ideal". 

Buildings can do that in many ways.  Greek, Roman, High Rennaissance, Mannerist, Baroque, Neoclassical, Beaux-Arts, Greek Revival, Federal, Georgian, various forms of Art Deco, regional vernacular styles - these styles all are classical, because, if they are done well, they exemplify the philosophy of classicism.  They may have explicit expression of the orders, in the form of elements like columns and entablatures...or they may not.

To be "classical" does not mean that a building needs to be of the same scale, form or material as a Greek temple.  Any more than to be "modernist" a building needs to have the same scale, form or materials as the Farnsworth House."

Well said.

Jul 2, 15 6:05 pm  · 
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TIQM

"EKE, I suspect you're more interested in a desired sameness than an actual sameness. I'm reminded of your denial of 'classical' architecture throughout history being a continually progressive pursuit, ie, how each generation that practiced 'classical' architecture always tried to improve it. That is actually how it happened, but you don't want to accept that because it debunks your distinction between Classicism and Modernism."

I never said this.  Of course the manifestation of classical architecture has evolved over the centuries.  Never said it didn't.  What I did say is that there are underlying principles of classical architecture which define its nature, and, like human nature, these do not change.

Curtkram-

Kids aren't losing the innate capacity for human interaction, they are becoming unskilled and/or uninterested in it.  There's a big difference.

Jul 2, 15 6:36 pm  · 
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TIQM

"Is there someplace where I can read this 'philosophy of classicism'? I'd like to know exactly what it is."

Do you mean Classical philosophy in its broadest sense, or the philosophy of classical architecture?

Jul 2, 15 6:44 pm  · 
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tintt

I think what characterized classicism was observation and debate

(puffs pipe)

The forum is nigh. 

Jul 2, 15 6:51 pm  · 
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curtkram

Good knight,

Put your quotes in italics.   It's hard to see where the quote stops and comment begins.  That makes for a less pleasurable read.  [That's not a demand, but rather a request because it's the classical way of formatting a form post without bbcode]

Eke, you use it or lose it.  If they don't practice human interaction skills,  the innate capacity will fade.  Same works for muscles and immune systems and all the other parts that compose a mammal.  The brain doesn't get to be unique just because it's the one that might find beauty in a white column.

Jul 2, 15 6:54 pm  · 
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Good_Knight

tintt, you said, "EKE, our tools have changed. Our knowledge has changed. Communications. Beliefs. Understandings. Laws. Technologies. Expectations. Capacities. Our brains have changed. Our diets have changed. Light has changed. Shopping has changed. Agriculture has changed. Transportation. I could go on, and on."

Agreed.  That said, there are at least a handful of things that have not changed.

And philosophies such as the Classical Ideal speak to the one thing that has remained constant:  human nature.

Jul 2, 15 7:01 pm  · 
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Good_Knight

curtkram said,

"Good knight,

Put your quotes in italics.   It's hard to see where the quote stops and comment begins.  That makes for a less pleasurable read...."

Thank you for your polite request curtkram.  I will endeavor to accommodate this request of yours, at least in this thread (let me know if the quotes in italics I've tried to use in this post do not function as you were hoping).

Jul 2, 15 7:05 pm  · 
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Good_Knight

EKE said, 

"Tintt:  None of those things you listed are part of our nature as human beings.  At the core, we are not our tools, our technology.  We not our customs, or our cultures.  These things are transient, ever evolving reflections of our nature, which is enduring and largely unchanging.

By the way, this is a key difference between the philosophies of modernism and classicism.  As a classicist, I am much more interested in how we are the same as our ancestors, that I am how we are different."

This was downright eloquent.  I would've merely quoted your comment here about human nature instead of interjecting my own, had I encountered it prior to posting my own.

Jul 2, 15 7:07 pm  · 
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Good_Knight

quondam you said,

"Is there someplace where I can read this 'philosophy of classicism'? I'd like to know exactly what it is."

I would suggest the first place to start, the Genesis if you will, might be with the writings of Plato and particularly his interpretations of the philosophies of his mentor Socrates.

Of course, Plato and Socrates are not 'architecture' in terms of buildings per se.  But again, the underpinnings, foundation, genesis of Classical Architecture is the philosophy of the Ideal and Idealism as laid out by various intelligent homo sapiens over the centuries (plenty are still expounding upon it as the ideal really has no beginning and no end).

To me, after having studied Plato's writings in great detail, Classic Architecture (the building per se) is crystallized/ frozen in time Idealism.  Beauty, truth, virtue, order, happiness, the joy of man are phrases that all come to mind to describe the purpose behind Idealism and specific to architecture: Ideal Form.

Jul 2, 15 7:14 pm  · 
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tintt

So do you guys hate every building that isn't classical? Does it feel like a sunburn, or a migraine, nails on a chalkboard? 

Jul 2, 15 7:16 pm  · 
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biologically, 

humans haven't changed in a million plus years. The reason is genetic evolution takes alot more than a million years to evolve and human ingenuity is essentially the same then as it is today. We just have a larger body of documented knowledge today than certain periods of time in the past but because we only know less than 1% of human history with 90% of that is on shaky ground in terms of understanding, it is highly probable that people have quite a comprehensive understanding of things than we have a clue about the past. 

I question notions people make about the past humans and their capabilities. We don't know anything about them so how can we judge their ability. We have a shitty record of human history and it is totally shitty. This is why human history as we understand it can be challenged and we should openly challenge what we know of history.

Jul 2, 15 7:36 pm  · 
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Good_Knight, is there a universal resource? If classicism is indeed based on the human, there are references to classical periods worldwide (albeit maybe not at the same time) other then Socrates and Plato. Any suggestions for a reader of sorts? This gets to my question regarding how "classical" is determined.

Jul 2, 15 7:53 pm  · 
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no_form

we need a clearly defined definition of classical architecture for starters.  attempting to define one here seems to be like racing a chariot in the Colosseum.  har har.  

also, what is human nature?  how do you define being human?  and then how do you define nature?  then when you know that, what is the relationship between the two?   i guess some people here would define it within the parameters of philosophical idealism.  

i think the problem that is emerging here is that some people in this thread are trying to stuff a diversity of ideas and experiences into one proudly declared "frozen"  formal language that has some sort of relationship to a singular universal idea or truth about what it is to be human.  

Jul 2, 15 8:20 pm  · 
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Good_Knight

quondam you said,

"The Partheon was already 10 years old when Plato was born, and he was 22 years old when the Erechtheum was complete. It's hard to imagine how Plato's writings and interpretations can be regarded as the "underpinnings, foundation, genesis of Classical Architecture."

Archimedes knew calculus thousands of years ago.  The typical occupant of the planet today has no idea what calculus is despite easy access to the internet.  Ideas are eternal.  Human nature is eternal.  No one generation in time has a monopoly on any particular ideas and truths.

Ideas, truths and human nature transcend all time.

To be specific, how absurd is that to follow the line of thinking on display in the quote above?  That is:  "The Parthenon couldn't have been built because classical architecture hadn't been invented yet" or in terms of calculus, "Archimedes couldn't have known about the integral because calculus hadn't been invented yet."

I'm not picking on you quondam.  This line of thinking, which is not reasonable, objective, or logical in the least, is more common than not these days at least in my life experience.  The illogic is buried amongst deceptively clever choices of words, phrases and assemblages of fact.  Nevertheless the thought process under-girding such propositions is downright absurd.

"Those alien beings on planet 4325673xxre-uhty in galaxy 93254 couldn't possible have invented the wheel...they hadn't discovered it from us on earth yet"  LOLZ

Jul 2, 15 8:27 pm  · 
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Good_Knight

rob_c said

"we need a clearly defined definition of classical architecture for starters.  attempting to define one here seems to be like racing a chariot in the Colosseum.  har har.  

also, what is human nature?  how do you define being human?  and then how do you define nature?  then when you know that, what is the relationship between the two?   i guess some people here would define it within the parameters of philosophical idealism.  

i think the problem that is emerging here is that some people in this thread are trying to stuff a diversity of ideas and experiences into one proudly declared "frozen"  formal language that has some sort of relationship to a singular universal idea or truth about what it is to be human. "

Precisely.  It takes work and hard thought to start to crack the nut at first.  But like any hill, eventually the struggle gives way to a plateau and then the rush of everything coming easy on the downhill side.  Its worth the effort and the answers are available to those who want to know and are willing to put the effort in.

Nice use of the SOCRATIC METHOD for the win!  ;-)

Jul 2, 15 8:37 pm  · 
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TIQM

"Eke, you use it or lose it.  If they don't practice human interaction skills,  the innate capacity will fade.  Same works for muscles and immune systems and all the other parts that compose a mammal."

Actually, that's not what the article said.  The author noted that children's communication and social skills rebounded if they spent several hours away from their cell phones.  

But let's assume you are right, that doesn't mean it represents a change in the nature of human beings, anymore than cutting off your hand would mean that it's no longer true that the nature of human beings is that they have two hands.  Unless you believe in Lamarkism, which was pretty much disproved by the 1920's, those kids who have had their social skills atrophy will not pass that deficit along to their offspring, so the nature of human beings has not changed. 

Jul 2, 15 9:06 pm  · 
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curtkram

If you cut your hand off you wouldn't be able to use your hand anymore.  You said the nature of human beings is (in part) to have 2 hands, so if you cut your hand off you no longer exhibit the trait that defines the nature of a human.. I guess that means the nature of the human hasn't changed, but the human has.

Social skills, like the notion of beauty,  aren't 'natural' anyway.  They're learned.  I don't have a firm handshake because that's the way God made me, I have a firm handshake because I learned that's how people communicate in the culture I happen to be in.  I think the columns in most of your pictures are too big.   Maybe that's just because I grew up around materials that are able to support heavy loads without being so big.  Perhaps in ancient Greece smaller columns invoked fear of building collapse, so their ideal proportion required a bit more mass.

Jul 3, 15 8:20 am  · 
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midlander

who decides whether the building manifests the pursuit of Platonic Ideals? The designer, the client, the public? Informed critics? Me?

Does Good Knight's definition of Classical Architecture preclude a classical ministry of war? Or prison? Or coliseum?

Could one produce modern-style architecure meeting this definition of Classicism? Mies for example was a deep admirer of the philosophies of St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas - which aren't strictly classical but clearly developed ideas put forth by Plato and sought to reconcile them to their own times. Does that count?

Jul 3, 15 10:21 am  · 
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TIQM

Curtkram-

Individual human beings, and cultures for that matter, do all sorts of things that are at odds with their nature.  We do it all the time.

"Social skills, like the notion of beauty, aren't 'natural' anyway.  They're learned."

Of course, we disagree on this.  I believe that social skills, and the capacity to access beauty, is a combination of nature and nurture.  I believe that the part of it that is culturally learned, the 'nurture' part, is malleable and will differ from person to person and culture to culture, epoch to epoch.  The part that is innate, the 'natural' part, is hardwired into us and is immutable.  

What is the balance of 'nature' and 'nurture' in people?  Really important question.

Jul 3, 15 11:41 am  · 
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Eke said:

"I believe that the part of it that is culturally learned, the 'nurture' part, is malleable and will differ from person to person and culture to culture, epoch to epoch.  The part that is innate, the 'natural' part, is hardwired into us and immutable."

A very interesting comment, which suggests through learning (nurture) and how these thing are processed through our hardwired parts (nature) and context (genius loci if you will)- humans learn good. But it also suggests that this can be manifested in manners that are not classical in in origin. Meaning the classical order is not the only origin story or means of evaluating beauty.

Jul 3, 15 12:13 pm  · 
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TIQM

I agree Marc.  I don't maintain that classical architecture and art is the only path to beauty.  I think it's a particularly steadfast one, but certainly not the only one.  

Philosophies like the "classical ideal" are models created by men to try to make sense of the world.  But the map is not the territory.  Other maps are possible, and multiple maps are probably necessary to come as close as possible to a full understanding.

Jul 3, 15 12:27 pm  · 
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TIQM

And what you espouse is real intellectualism, I suppose. 

Jul 3, 15 12:48 pm  · 
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