A monument, The Tale of the Tongs, dedicated to the Irish diaspora on Inishturk Island, County Mayo, Ireland (Photo: Michael McLoughlin )
The products of modern architecture can sometimes be seen as sterile, hard to understand, and lacking a relationship with nature or the culture in which they are situated. What happens when architects look beyond the design and function of a building to also consider the meaning behind it and the emotions it evokes?
Travis Price, principal of Travis Price Architects in Washington, D.C., and an adjunct professor at Catholic University, leads a visual journey that ranges from examples of his own modern works to the global “Spirit of Place” design-build expeditions he leads for his students as he examines the sacred metaphors that exist in architecture. He also discusses why he finds that it’s imperative that modernist architects become responsible stewards who acknowledge both nature and ancient culture in their design projects. His work, both with students and professionally, aims to create a humanist architecture he calls the Mythic Modern, which he describes as “an inspirational awakening into an architectural renaissance of the 21st century, the creation of the archaeology of tomorrow.”
Price’s design-build expeditions with architectural students have constructed a myriad of cultural and sacred legacy markers at sites around the world, all built in an astonishing nine days each. The student projects span metaphysical Haida sweat lodges in British Columbia, a floating house on the Peruvian Amazon, a stargazing temple at Machu Picchu, a snake shrine in Nepal, and numerous Celtic sacred retreats in western Ireland. The structures tap into some of the world’s deepest traditions as they honor the environments where they are built and their cultural and historical settings, while making use of the best technologies of today. Price’s own professional work follows the same principles by incorporating ecology, mythology, and technology into each design.
After all, Price observes, today’s architecture will be the archaeological discoveries of the future. What does, and should, modern architecture say about our natural environment, the cultures within it, and the materials we use to create it?
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