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Giving Orders front cover
Giving Orders title

Giving Orders is a book about order, the way order invests in the natural world from the extents of the cosmos down to the smallest particles. The relevance of the orders to architecture has been lost. However, the significance of physical laws to our lives could not be stronger. Our communication and control systems are derived from an understanding of the order underlying the behaviour of matter and energy.

 

Once poetry demanded form, meter and rhyme – now poetry is freed as word building. To the ancients, architecture was defined by the concept of the orders. Now, the distinction between building and architecture has become blurred. Rodney Black does not argue that the orders are essential for a building to be considered a work of architecture. However, he emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and referencing them in architectural design.

 

Giving Orders takes us on a journey from pre-history, exploring the orders through cross-cultural references and uncovering connections between architecture, architects, human instincts, and the fundamental forces that govern the cosmos. The orders are therefore allegories.

 

Giving Orders is not a copy book, though there are plenty of drawn examples; it is an architectural tour from the awakening of awareness to the age of advanced Astro- and particle-physics.

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It is with the New Kingdom that a more balanced duality becomes significant. The first is the separation of burial space from mortuary temple, the burials taking place in deep, remote tunnels, most famously the Valley of the Kings. But, more obviously, the design of the temples themselves contains a blatant duality of separation. The pylon that is the main frontage of both mortuary and cult temples is based on duality of separation – there are two, bold masonry buildings with a diminutive entrance between. Faced with this original, architectural duality, there is cause to wonder what is being expressed? We are used to the usual dualities – sun/moon, day/night, male/female, left/right (as in hand or foot), heaven/Earth, sacred/secular, pen/paper, self/system, advance/retreat, questions of morality (good/bad), together with the primary forms that have been the subject of this Introduction: monument/pavilion. But what we have with the pylon is a duality of equals; similarities separated by the axis. If the ancient Egyptians were not capable of subtlety or profundity, the design could be thought an accident. But this architectural form cannot be brushed away that easily. The goddesses Hathor and Isis were both associated with the afterlife. Hathor, a female deity par excellence was also the one who helped with the passage of deceased souls to the afterlife. She is portrayed as a cow, or a slim young woman, with tall horns and captive solar disc between. She was primarily an Old Kingdom deity and her emphasis was on the solar disc, the eye of Ra, the sun god that rises and sets. Isis was the protective goddess and was much adored by pharaohs and ordinary people alike. She was the wife of Osiris, the god of death, the underworld (giving a chthonic dimension to his authority), resurrection and hence agriculture. By association, Isis was therefore embedded in the endless cycle of life and death. As a goddess who came to prominence after Hathor’s influence had waned, Isis adopted the role of mother of Horus from Hathor. Images of her and her infant son were widespread, an image derived from the same source in the human condition as the later images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. The worship of Isis was also widespread – there was even a temple of Isis in London. In the New Kingdom, long after Hathor’s period of prominence (from the end of the Old Kingdom to the beginning of the new was nearly 600 years), Isis adopts many of the attributes of Hathor including the horns and solar disc and the horns become a challenging duality. The pylon embodies the underlying symbolism in architecture of the horns of Isis. For the word in ancient Egyptian for ‘pylon’, a landscape image is employed – the pylon is the built form representing the Egyptian hieroglyph for ‘horizon’ – akhet – a depiction of two hills with the sun setting or rising between, the shape of the two hills remarkably similar to the horns of a cattle beast. After the form had been inspired by the written word, the ancient Egyptian word for ‘pylon’, bekhen, meaning ‘luminous mountain horizon of heaven’, reinforces the allusion. This meaning/form connection is relatively rare in architecture. The symbolic connection between calligraphy and architecture happens occasionally in commercial buildings suggesting that competition may be at the heart of all belief systems. To the ancient Egyptians, the setting of the sun is tied up with death and the rising of the sun with rebirth. Imagine the pylon as the horizon that signifies death, just as the ‘event horizon’ in current astrophysics suggests inertness. This is in the sense that particles pass to a point beyond retrieval, but with all of the faint interplay from one side to the other that was identified by the physicist Stephen Hawking. The interrelationship between one side and the other of the great divide is inherent in the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridice, for example, where Orpheus attempts to gain Euridice back from the underworld. With some effort of imagination, the curvature of the horns of Isis, as seen from the point of view of the sun, the eye of Ra (or Re in some spellings), are a plot of the apparent movement of a point on the horizon – part of a sinusoidal curve that suggests a wave. Such waves are inherent in all circular motions. In the Hathor/Isis depiction, the sun nestles at the very base of the horns, the moment of nadir in the moving model. Evangelical worship sometimes requires participants to lift their arms above the head during parts of the act of praise. This pose resembles the horns of Isis. The worshipper’s head takes the place of the solar disc. Such forms often foresee destruction of the world and look forward to resurrection to eternal life for the participant. This living enactment of the form has very early precedents, among them the posture of ancient Greeks duringworship.

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Duality of Separation. This form of duality is with us in our daily lives, the separation of similar opposing sides brought into a shared space or theatre. The opposition can be hostile or it can be complementary. In the design of buildings, the wings of a single building can house opposing parties resulting in some hostility, but the design of the building normally suggests serenity of purpose. In the I Ching, the hexagrams begin with the horizontal stroke for yes and the horizontal broken stroke for no. Hexagram 1 has six unbroken lines meaning Force, Creative, Strong Action, the Key, God, Heaven. Hexagram 2 has six broken lines meaning Receptive, Acquiescence, the Flow, Earth. These have some semblance to the two prime forms of architecture. From these two line-types are generated 64 hexagrams that extend in meaning from the dialectic opposites to many nuanced states of significance. Mani, the Persian prophet on whom Manichaeism was based, considered himself the natural heir to Zoroaster, Gautama Buddha and Jesus, a believer in light versus darkness, emblems for good and evil in the game of spiritual duality. As with much Persian thought, including ideas descending from the cradle of civilisation, Mani’s teaching reached Western Europe to be greeted with scepticism, though that reaction did not eradicate the ideas. They lay like a restless reminder of an alternative reality. His cult was ultimately crushed in the west due to the severe repression under various emperors commencing with Diocletian. Then in Persia the Sasanians from Bahram II onwards oppressed the cult and finally, in C14, it died out completely from its last sphere of influence in South China. In parliament, the speaker represents the seat of power with opposing sides to left and right. In courts of law, the two sides sit separately and put forward their arguments to the judge, or judges, unequal in number to prevent symmetrical duality, who consider them and deliver a verdict, or a sentence on receipt of a verdict from a jury. The judgement, in this form of duality, concerns which of two opposing sides in dispute is held to be correct in law. There is a distinction here from the criminal law where the criminal is axial – the two sides, the defence and the prosecution, argue the case for or against the accused’s innocence. With the duality of separation, the relationship is to do with arbitration where the judge decides which of two interested parties will have the backing of the law. King Solomon arbitrated between the two possible mothers of an infant in the first Book of Kings, chapter 3. The child itself was not part of the duality, it was axial, the object of the dispute rather than an alleged wrong-doer. Human imaginings of the final judgement were a frequent subject for Italian painters – Giotto’s last judgement at the Scrovegni (Arena) chapel in Padua, completed c. 1305, the Doom wall painting at St. Michael’s, Salisbury, c. 1470, overpainted in the late C19, and Michelangelo’s Last Judgement at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, 1536–1541, are famous examples. In each, Jesus Christ casts down the fallen, sinful and unrepentant souls to the eternal torments of hell, and welcomes the chosen to the everlasting comforts of heaven. There is something understandably unreal in these paintings, the disconnect between technique, composition and subject matter very marked. In sport, pursuits that a large percentage of the world’s population follow, often avidly and at considerable cost, the umpire is flanked by opposing contestants. The instinct for competition appears to be hardwired into the human condition, this aspect of our nature essential for rapid early development, but with repercussions now that the means available for destruction are so potent. At the rational level, in each, there is an implied hypothesis, antithesis and, implied or otherwise, synthesis. In the human body, there are such opposing members and organs that give rise to certain dualities: about the centreline, when considered from the front or rear, starting from the top, there is the brain with its left and right hemispheres, the eyes, ears, nostrils, teeth, tonsils, arms, breasts, lungs, kidneys, testes/ovaries, legs and, many other wondrously necessary items, bones amongst them. Of the unitary items, there is the head, the mouth, the neck, the body, the heart, the stomach, the navel, the penis/vagina, the uterus and these tend to create monument-pavilion pairings following the axis of the body – head/body, head/heart, head/stomach, head/penis, heart/uterus, heart/stomach, neck/stomach and pairings to the partner gender. The paired items tend to have associations with distance, lineally related for some reason – the perception of depth a function of separation of the eyes, for example. Considering procreation, there is no interest in where the sperm and egg came from for each human being. But there is a small matrix that applies, akin to the quantum discoveries of spin, orientation and direction, that are identified for sub-atomic particles. These are the combinations of testicle and ovary that precede conception – left (o)-left (t), left (o)-right (t), right (o)-left (t) and right (o)-right (t). At this simple level, it shows the complexity that arises with separated dualities. With more complex relationships, the number of generated options increases according to a steady progression: where there are 2 + 2 generators, as in our example, there are 4 possible outcomes; where 3 + 3, 9 outcomes; where 4 + 4, 16 outcomes; 5 + 5, 25 outcomes and so forth. The sequence, where the number of possible outcomes is divided by the number of generators, is 1,1.5,2,2.5,3… a steady rise in complexity. We see how this complexity becomes apparent when institutions are organised on this separated basis, such as the House of Commons in the UK parliament, just one amongst many. When party discipline is challenged by the members’ individual interests, the complexity of relationships is contained only by the overarching authority of the speaker. In other words, the central, mediating or disciplining element becomes overbearing. It is a repeating trend in architecture. The buildings of the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, which include all of the well-known pyramids, have a massive, singular monument that anchors the design. The votive mortuary temple and approach corridor or avenue pale into formal insignificance in comparison. The Middle Kingdom followed the same broad principles as the Old Kingdom, though built with less durable materials – sun-baked brick rather than stone, for example, so their legacy is less obvious, but one interesting development was the use of underground burial chambers and tunnels that became a hallmark of the New Kingdom Dynasties.

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