Unification Sermons and Talks
Unification Architecture Revisited through the Family Pledge
by Chad Hoover-Syracuse, NY
This week Reverend Tom Baldwin visited our Upstate New York community. We gathered at the home of John & Joy Pople in Baldwinsville, near Syracuse. The content of the talk was inspiring, but what really struck me was an interpretation given of the Family Pledge. It's funny how some things jump out at you. I was reminded that when Father speaks to a group he continues to speak until he feels he's said something to inspire each person in the room.
The particular point for me in this case was a translation of the word Ka-jeong or "family" as used in the first point of the Family Pledge. As Reverend Baldwin explained that the literal translation includes not only the family, but the house, the garden, the ancestors, even the evil spirit world, something clicked. He also explained that every house should have a room dedicated to the public and used for the public good.
I have held for years that the cornerstone of Unification Architecture will be laid through the fulfillment of the Tribal Messiahship mission. Our own homes will be the starting place. The home is the physical location from which we build the Kingdom of Heaven. It is also something we can "build with our hands" meaning that it can be achieved on the family level, usually in one generation.
Home ownership and the concept of "dream house" are generally placed in the same category as motherhood and apple pie . They are part of the American dream. But does this concept of home transcend American culture to become Unification culture? I think it can.
A Personal Definition Of Architecture
Before looking at some of the specific characteristics of the home as the starting point of Unification Architecture, I think it is worth looking at what architecture is.
Architecture has traditionally been the primary medium through which the powerful have formalized their world view. The word formal suggests giving form, substantially. It is a sub category of all construction projects, in which the artistic expression of that world view through form, space, light, color and texture takes the subjective position over basic physical sheltering needs. So, in two words it is "construction plus." It transcends utilitarian purposes, although it almost invariably fulfills utilitarian needs.
Most examples of what I call architecture fit this definition. Unfortunately there isn't time to give examples, but it may be useful to think about different building types and try applying this definition to see if it works for you. In particular, consider places of worship, palaces as both seats of government and as homes, other institutions and commercial structures.
Where do modest, single family homes fit into this scheme of things? Apparently nowhere.
Home Ownership And Architecture
From a historical perspective, homes (other than palaces and houses of the very wealthy) have not been designed by architects until very recently. As a design type, the modest home as architecture has been pioneered by architects and designers of the late 19th century and all of the 20th century. A brief look at Frank Lloyd Wright's perspective may be helpful. Although some aspects of his ideals are in conflict with our understanding of the Principle, many are completely consistent. For example, he stressed living and building in harmony with nature. Clearly consistent with the Third Blessing. He believed in an ideal, egalitarian society in which ALL people should have access to architectural beauty and strove to create affordable prototypes of single family houses. This vision of creating ideal communities was shared by many American designers of his generation.
Yet, even now, in the wake of these efforts, very few homeowners aspire to live in "architecture." Why is this?
The reasons are numerous. There are real costs associated with time and money. "With limited resources, why should I stick my neck out?" is an often unspoken question of would-be homeowners. Beyond these obvious risks, there is the creative risk. One has to decide how to "formalize one's world view" through one's home. In order to do that, one has to have a world view and honestly, most people don't have one. Then why do some people still persist?
Numerous reasons again. Some are tied to status and prestige; a demonstration that they attained the financial security that allows them to a build a dream home. Often people in this category become style-fixated in an effort to imitate something that someone else has that they want. Attaining the house is almost an accessory, a fashion statement.
Others have a concept, or intuition about their ideal home, that they don't find reflected in what is commercially available. They are probably working from some unspoken principle. As contrasted to the first category, they are a creative minority. And being dreamers, they probably don't have the wherewithal to build their dreams. But there is hope. To quote George Bernard Shaw:
"The reasonable man tries to adapt himself to the world: the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Thus all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
A Brief History Of American House Design
Through a brief look at the history of American domestic design, one can gain insight into where we are headed as a society through grasping the implications of the houses we choose as our homes.
These observations are based on first hand experience with houses built from 1807 onward in Upstate New York. They hold equally true for New England examples which really set the patterns described.
From the early 1800's through the present day one can see a slow transition in the way people spent their time (and money) in their houses. Early on, as settlers replaced simple shelters with more elaborate homes built by itinerant carpenters, they placed great emphasis on their front doors, street facades and entry halls. If they had to scrimp, they would do it elsewhere in the house. Clearly, there was a consciousness about the larger community that dictated making a link to that community through one's home and entry. The parlor was almost as important, but it was secondary. Usually there were few rooms, including a kitchen, a dining room, several large, shared bedrooms and an outhouse and other out buildings.
As the 1800's drew to a close, houses became more complex with more rooms. Bathrooms were moved inside, but the public part of the house remained predominant. There was a boom in the construction of porches for socializing and summer sleeping.
In the early 1900's, with the advent of the automobile, the importance of the front door began to erode. People entered the house from various directions. Living rooms were added in addition to parlors.
The implication was that the stuffy old parlors were just for show. Two bathroom houses were not unheard of. Kitchens were still distinctly separate from dining rooms. Garages, and carports became more common.
After World War II, parlors were virtually eliminated and living rooms were augmented by family rooms and recreation rooms. Most people wanted a private bathroom for the master bedroom and one or two more bathrooms. Kitchens became more open and often had room for family eating. Garages or carports were mostly attached and very visible. Front porches were virtually eliminated.
Since 1970, many houses have been built with "great rooms", typically an informal two-story space, although living rooms are still common. Integrating the kitchen and food preparation areas so there is visual access to the great room, has facilitated socializing concurrent with meal preparation. Kitchens have become much more complex and elaborate. Bathrooms also have increased in size, number and complexity and "master suites" often make up entire wings of houses.
In short, the pattern is towards increased privatization of the home. Often there is greater isolation between family members by design. Depending on one's viewpoint this translates into greater emphasis on health, eating and "quality time" or on sleep, food and sex. The truth is somewhere in between. The home is seen much more as a place of retreat, in which to shut out the rest of the world.
The home is a mirror of family values. It is a remarkably good one. People tend to spend money on things that they value and it is clear today that less emphasis is being placed on the public aspect of the home. This trend is a point for concern.
Tribal Messiahship And Unification Architecture
We now have some understanding of the role of architecture as a visual art that expresses the values of a culture. We also understand that domestic design is moving in a direction away from public awareness and towards individual gratification. Finally, we understand our missions as tribal messiahs to serve our communities and testify to our True Parents and Divine Principle.
With a grasp of these points, it is possible to make a shift in the direction of domestic architecture on the family level, so that if more effectively reflects our beliefs and lifestyle. Obviously, the internal comes first. But inevitably people do modify their environment whether knowingly or unknowingly. As we make choices, whether simply repainting a room, moving a wall or window or building new, it would be prudent to keep a few concepts in mind:
First: The house should be inviting from the outside. People should be able to find the entry. It may be very direct or may involve a series of transitions before entering the house. For example, assuming that your tradition is to take off shoes before entering the house, choosing to create a vestibule large enough to remove one's shoes comfortably before entering the main part of the house rather than accepting a cramped entry with no deliberate place for shoes is the kind of decision that can make the difference between guests feeling anticipated and welcomed instead of off-balance and uncomfortable.
Second: The house should look harmonious with its surroundings. If the neighborhood is harmonious an effort should be made to choose colors and plantings that fit in. If the immediate surroundings look like the kingdom of hell, then perhaps an oasis would be nice. An oasis looks good in a desert because it contrasts well with its surroundings. In this way, contrast can also create harmony.
Remember the garden, and that True Parents have named every home that they have dedicated to God, a garden. A garden is another form of microcosm and it is a place for you to co-create. As a form of meditation you might try to visualize the difference between a yard and a garden.
Third: Consider a hall. I do not mean a corridor, but a hall as in a castle or palace. In the past, the hall was a great meeting place in the lord's house, and also a place of protection. As tribal messiahs, we need to be "lords" in that sense. We need public rooms in our homes. In many ways, the concept of the "great room" works well for this. It is usually central and other rooms open onto it. It is also a void (if it is a 2-story room it will be perceived as the open "space" around which the "solid" rooms are organized) which I think reflects nicely on the invisibility and omnipresence of the deity.
Fourth: Make sure there is quiet space for reflection, meditation and prayer. It may not always be possible to have a fully dedicated prayer room, but there should always be this kind of space to offset the public component of the home.
Models Of The Ideal
If any of you are embarking on home projects of your own, it's important to remember that it is a process of creation, co-creation or re-creation and as such will require effort and experimentation. It's also important to look to examples.
True Parents have always upheld East Garden as a model of harmony, peace and dedication to God's purpose. We can learn from this example. It is possible to inherit their heart of creating harmony and dedicating to the public purpose and apply it to any style or size of house, in any kind of neighborhood that you happen to call home.
There are numerous examples of great, and modest homes. One only need be sensitized to them as a resource for ideas. Keep you eyes open. I'd suggest also trying to visit renowned masterpieces if you can. Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater" comes to mind as one with special resonance.
Is the home the only building type unique to Unification Architecture? No, but I think its unique role as a new type of architecture derives from our Unificationist tradition of home church and tribal messiahship. The expression of the home (representing the family) as a building block of the kingdom of heaven; as the fulfillment of God's ideal; as something sacred, is renewed through our True Parents. As we explore the implications of this, it will in time give rise to new ways of interpreting institutional forms, be they governmental, educational or commercial.
With respect to ecclesiastical architecture, I see no urgency to reinterpret the chapel or cathedral. These are New Testament forms and we are living in the Completed Testament Age. Father teaches that the three great celebrations of life are birth, marriage and passing to the spirit world. I think that to the extent that we have and develop a liturgy and sacraments, they will center around these three events. It is conceivable that we will have unique architectural forms to express these ideas, as our culture develops and emerges.
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