Building with the Breath of Life
by Tom Bender
Throughout history, cultures have acknowledged the existence of a subtle life-force energy, or chi, underlying and connecting all material existence. The universe of chi is both new and timelessly ancient. It is a vision of the energy—rather than material—basis of all Creation, of the intimate interconnectedness of all life.
Some manifestations of this energy, as seen in cities all over the world, serve to illustrate the concepts and make us aware of the emotions that urban settings can evoke.
Most cultures, other than the contemporary Western main stream, have incorporated an understand of this breath of life into all aspects of their lives. The personal experience of this breath of life through yoga, tai chi, qi-gong, martial arts, meditation, or spontaneous occurrence is acknowledged by increasing numbers of people in our own culture.
A chi-centered worldview changes how we design and use places. It requires, obviously, that we give consideration to the chi of a place. The role of the sacred becomes central to our relationship with our surroundings. Buildings with soul, gardens for our spirits, and cities of passion become the goal rather than rentable square feet.
Accommodating and enhancing ritual and its role in both the making and use of places becomes important, as does being a part of the local ecological community. Low-impact ecological design is taken for granted. Growth, greed, and consumption give way to the goals of sustainability and nurturing.
Roots of Community Passions
Our minds, hearts, dreams, and emotions are vital to our cities. We often think of cities in terms of their technical and material elements, such as streets and highways, hospitals, water, sewer, electrical and communication systems, building functions, and institutions. Yet how they stir our love and passion, affect our minds, give form to our dreams, and evoke our emotions are vital elements in their power.
Itsukushima Shrine consists of pavilions floating above the waters of the bay, their crimson color iridescent and shimmering in the light reflected off the water.
Photo: Tom Bender
Itsukushima Shrine is an unforgettable setting for the blessing of a fishing fleet and image of the Sacred Land of Paradise.
Image: Tom Bender
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