Walter Pater famously declared that “all art aspires to the condition of music.” What he meant is that music is able to work on our feelings directly; no ideas interfere with its emotions. I’d amend that slightly, and say that art should also aspire to the condition of architecture, especially when the architecture looks like this. (von Schelling said that “architecture is music in space,” which has nothing to do with anything but is a nice line.) In other words, art should fill us with visceral feelings, but it should also be rooted in the real world. An architect can’t just make beautiful forms – they have to make beautiful forms that resist the tug of gravity. This means that their aesthetics must be in a constant dialogue with the laws of physics, as they straddle these two very different cultures. Or as I somewhat presumptuously write in my book:
Our two existing cultures must modify their habits. First of all, the humanities must sincerely engage with the sciences. Henry James defined the writer as someone on whom nothing is lost; artists must heed his call, and not ignore science’s inspiring descriptions of reality. Every humanist should read Nature.
That was a wordy way of introducing the California Academy of Sciences, designed by Renzo Piano. Be sure to check out the roof!