Revealing the Line

An architect’s goal is to reveal unique aspects of life through the design of buildings. His work/joy is to integrate depth into a project on many layers, measurable and immeasurable.

So what does reveal mean? As a verb, it is to “make previously unknown information known to others”. As a noun, it can be defined as “either side surface of an aperture or indentation that gives depth and individual identity”. How can we use the design of the built environment to reveal aspects of God’s nature? I believe Psalm 19 informs us:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. [Yet] Their measuring line has gone out through all the earth, and their voice to the end of the world.(Psalm 19:1-4 ESV)

Did you catch that? The art (creation) of God reveals knowledge about him. While his art does not audibly “speak” to us, its voice is heard extensively and clearly. As an architect, I consider it a challenge and responsibility to help others see God’s revelation. This can be done through design via the study and expression of rhythm, texture, balance, light, sound, materials, assemblies, and created systems (solar, gravity, thermodynamics, etc.); and through an ongoing dialogue with clients and colleagues.

If you are familiar with all of Psalm 19, you recognize it as a two-prong revelation. Verses 1-6 are referred to as general revelation (creation) while verses 7-14 are considered as specific revelation (laws, precepts, statutes). Often a tension exists between immeasurable wonder (1-6) and measurable definition (7-14). However, in this one chapter, God sets both side by side, working together to give a full understanding of his nature.

This is the beauty of architecture. It is philosophical yet constrained; it seeks intrigue but must follow the laws of nature; it magnifies materiality yet must respect a budget. [1]

A holistic practice of architecture combines this wonder and definition. And by doing so, it elevates the importance of place (adapting to and caring for a specific location), livability (enhancing the value of everyday life), quality (in design and construction), conservation (of physical and financial resources) and abundance (revealing the creative line of God in our lives).

So as an encouragement to architects (and all forms of artistic expression), seek to reveal God’s measuring line in your work. Seek to reveal, as a witness to others, attributes of his creation and thereby enhance our collective perception of his character.

As I train myself to see and consider the various ways God expresses himself, this is often supported by the music I listen to. This song by Kansas speaks of God’s creation revealing his character in a calculated yet indescribable way.

“Myriad” – Kansas
Somewhere to Elsewhere

Upon the page, symbolic form,
Both a miracle and yet the norm
The functions clear,
Sum and difference will soon transform
Equations chain lies in His hand,
Voice authority will dance command
Solution’s true, line of measure will divide, expand
Myriad, see the numbers as they’re counting down
Thousands and thousands
Myriad, form and function to display the sound
Line upon line every melody points the way
The cycle turns, like Heaven’s gate,
Unknown integers predestinate
Calculating all we must explore, and navigate
Quantities no man can know,
No formula to wield
No pages left to turn,
No choices but to yield

 

Bio: Matt Pearson is an architect and educator in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, USA. He is known for thoughtful, disciplined, and holistic solutions that are inspiring, responsive, functional, and efficient. He is a graduate of John Brown University (Building Construction) and the University of Minnesota (Architecture).


[1] To gain a better understanding, I recommend these sources: Ken Myers, “Perception, Imagination and Reason,” Mars Hill Audio, 2008; Vitruvius, “Firmness, Commodity and Delight,” 1st century B.C.;  David Taylor, “Unity, Complexity and Richness,” A Holy Longing – Christianity Today, October 2008; and R.C. Sproul, “Truth, Love and Beauty” in Recovering the Beauty of the Arts, 2003.

Image Credit: Aus10 Photoartists

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2 Comments

  • Debbie Young says:

    This post encapsulates so many things that I’ve thought and felt over the years as an artist. The importance of “line” and what it reveals, the presence of a “myriad” of numbers and mathematics as they go round defining and, again, revealing God. I’ve never been good at analytics but I can feel the truth within beauty. Thank you for putting it all together here, the beautiful relationship between the “measurable and the immeasurable.”

    • Matt Pearson says:

      When we really stop and look at specific examples in nature (what God has made), there is such a beautiful integration of the technical (photosynthesis, gravity, structure, circulation) and the aesthetic (color, balance, proportion, texture) showing intricate layered design that has depth, richness, and authenticity.

      Can you imagine when we will see more clearly how all these things work together? Wow! That’s another discussion though – Romans 8:18-25.

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