Transporting Body and Soul

4-03-2013, 14:20
Transporting Body and SoulAnton Glikin
This article was first published in the Spring Issue № 15, 2002 of the Art Watch UK Newsletter.

In a remarkable inversion of modernist architectural logic, the entire interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s New York Guggenheim Museum has been painted matt black. Natural top and reflected light has been extinguished throughout for a single purpose: to provide the most dramatically theatrical, contrasting background possible for a giant golden object that forms the center-piece of the current exhibition — «Brazil. Body and Soul». The colossal «object» now animating and dominating the museum’s interior, was brought from the Benedictine church of São Bento, Olinda (Northeast Brazil). It is, in fact, the church’s altar.

The church, built in 1760 is rather small. Its interior space, elongated in plan, is dominated by a late Baroque carved and gilded cedar altar that measures 13.6 metres in height, 7.9 metres in width and 4.5 metres in depth. The altar structure occupies the entire end wall of the hall, and forms an uninterrupted sculptural transition from the wall to the ceiling. The drama of the view from the entrance door of the church is enhanced by the successive rhythm of windows (see front cover.) This stunningly orchestrated combination of visual effect and architectural logic is not transportable and has not been recreated or remotely matched in the altar’s present position in the middle of the great central atrium of the Guggenheim. The elaborate mannerist pediment that both “crowned” the altar and served to effect a sculptural transition between the wall and the ceiling is left ridiculously hanging in the present black void of the interior and pointing to no purpose into the air.

A Vision for St. Petersburg

4-03-2013, 14:07
A Vision for St. PetersburgAnton Glikin

Judeo-Christian culture is one of the main sources that nourish Europe’s cultural identity. Our cities are more than just functional facilities; they are also spiritual maps in which ideas are articulated by means of architecture. Churches marked the Possesso route of papal processions in Rome – the city that serves as “our great model” (Vladimir Soloviev). In turn, St. Petersburg was founded by Peter I, not only as a strategic fortress, but as a “new Paradise” in which the sacred dominants – church spires and domes – punctuate the horizontal landscape, overwhelmed by the Havens (Likhachev, Nebolsine, Talalay).

European architecture used to employ a predominantly Greco-Roman vocabulary. Even Gothic and Byzantine styles, as contemporary architect Robert Adam observed, were transformed perceptions of ourselves as the heirs of antiquity. Masterpieces of Islamic architecture, too, show significant Greco-Roman influences.