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Christopher Barlow

ARCH 100

9/22/2013

ARCH 100 Reading Activity 1


Name three of the religious traditions Barrie discusses that practice pilgrimage as an act of faith. What is similar and different about their understanding of its meaning and benefits?

Three religious traditions that practice pilgrimage as an act of faith which Barrie discusses are: Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Although few pilgrimages are taken alone, each of these religious traditions emphasizes the individual nature of the act. For all faiths, the individual must undergo a variety of trials and ritual demonstrations during their pilgrimage. For Christians, this first meant putting on certain clothing - a long tunic, broad-brimmed hat, pouches for possessions and money, and a walking staff - all of which were required to be blessed before setting out on the journey. Similarly, Hindu pilgrims wore a saffron robe whenever embarking on their sacred ventures. Muslims submitted themselves to perhaps the greatest transformation by cutting their hair and nails as well as changing their dress, part of a practice known as ihram. This change in appearance helped to set apart those who were involved in the pilgrimage from the rest of society, marking them as separate from the secular world. Upon entering the sacred site, many religions including Christianity and Hinduism had predetermined paths on which the pilgrim was to move through the space. Christians followed along the stations of the cross while Hindus walked in circles around certain temples in a specific direction. Indeed, one cannot simply be passive along the journey, this understanding remains true for all major world religions today. The goal of or meaning behind each of these pilgrimages, however, does vary between religions. What sets Islam apart from either of the other two traditions is that it requires its followers to make a pilgrimage. Known as the hajj, this significant event summons nearly 2 million Muslims to the city of Mecca every year. In the twentieth century, Christianity imposed a similar custom on its followers: the purchase of indulgences via a pilgrimage to Rome. Though these were not explicitly required for every Christian to obtain, it promised safer and easier passage into the gates of heaven after death. Thus, massive crowds of Christians began to form in Rome similar to the crowds of Muslims in Mecca. More than any other religion, Christianity draws attention to miracles and cures. Subsequently, many sites to which Christians make their pilgrimages promise special physical or spiritual healing powers. Upon receiving these miraculous benefits, Christians often traveled to the site of the patron saint to whom they had been praying in order to venerate or give thanks to them. On the other hand, Hindus considered their pilgrimages to be an escape from everyday life, a chance to re-focus one's life on deeper spiritual aims. Their goal was not to fulfill a religious mandate or gain healing but to simply refresh oneself, almost like a vacation or a festival. Indeed, one of the most crucial pilgrimages for Hindus, the Kumbha Mela, revolves around a relaxing soak in the Ganges river. Despite these many differences, however, the return from the pilgrimage for all faiths meant spiritual transformation and improved societal status. One rejoined their family and community as a new creature, spiritually reborn. Barrie mentions the use of forbidding, even threatening boundaries at many sacred destinations: walls,
moats, mountains, bridges, and guardian figures. How does a protected site increase the meaning of the pilgrimage? Use one of his examples to illustrate.

Christopher Barlow

ARCH 100

9/22/2013

The use of imposing architecture surrounding a sacred site amplifies the meaning of the pilgrimage by signifying to the patron a transition from the secular world onto holy ground. More than this, it serves to keep out those who are uninitiated to the faith, only allowing in those who understand the importance of the site and respect its sacred attributes. In the Bible, an account of Moses's encounter with God on Mt Saini demonstrates this exclusivity. Only Moses, a man whom God alone chose to rule over his people, was allowed to cross a certain boundary placed around the base of the mountain. The penalty for stepping beyond this holy barrier was instant death. Within these rigid borders of sacred zones there are often very few means of egress by which religious pilgrims may enter. Typically, these paths or entrances utilize numerous linear spaces or events, each one more sacred than the last, leading toward the holiest of holy places within the space. This layout served two major purposes for the meaning of the pilgrimage: again to protect the space from the uninitiated and to test those seeking divine inspiration. Rarely easy to traverse, these paths fulfilled certain expectations of what it meant to receive this heightened level of spiritual well-being. One could not simply become spiritually well by visiting a space for a few minutes then leaving; one had to put effort toward removing every profane aspect of their lives along their long and arduous journey in order to obtain true spiritual refinement. Examples of these paths of trial include the three thousand "Steps of Repentance" at Mt Sinai and the seven thousand steps of Mt Tai-shen in China.
What has like a strong anchor, saved many a man from shipwreck in the storms of life? How exactly does Downing see this working?

In this quote, Downing is referring to the home as an object with connections to the mind of its owner, influencing his or her way of life and acting as a refuge from harm. According to his thinking, the home accomplishes this elevation from mere building to sanctuary through a variety of means: by the transference of one's personalities onto the space, by erecting a barrier from the vices of the world, by the invitation of nature around the space, and many others. In building a home, one must consider personal taste and preferences; thus, a reflection of the self is intrinsically infused within the home. Consequently, when hardships abound in life that threaten to blur one's perception of his or her true self, one can always look toward one's home to re-focus. Instilled within this mindset, a home - with its solid foundation, ceiling, and walls - can actually prevent hardships by surrounding an individual with those things most precious to him or her (e.g. family, personal possessions, memories). Lastly, the home is not completely cut off from the surrounding world but invites in only its purest element: nature. For Downing, the exterior landscape of the home was often just as important as the interior. Nature, as a continual source of inspiration for man across boundaries of space and time, compliments all aspects of the home by enhancing its overall restorative power.
Downing describes the sort of architectural styles he thinks are appropriate for Americans to use. Where do these come from? What does that say about his cultural biases?

The architectural styles which Downing supports for Americans to use are: Gothic, Grecian, Roman, Italian, Swiss, or any "new and more suitable modifications of these styles." As a highly diverse nation - culturally, geographically, and environmentally, Downing claims that the United States must exhibit a diverse array of architectural styles. Ironically, all of the architectural styles that he lists come from Europe. In fact, he seems to dismiss all other forms of architecture from places beyond western Europe (Italy, France, and England) as "barbarous" and built by "semi-civilized" people.

Christopher Barlow

ARCH 100

9/22/2013

Clearly, this shows his cultural bias as a man born in the United States of European descent. He has studied and gained familiarity with these styles and thus he appreciates and venerates them. Having little or no experience with Asian, South American, Eastern European, or any other architectural types, it is easy for him to simply throw these ideas to the side.
Explain Jacobs analogy between professional urban planning and medical bloodletting. Do you think she makes a fair comparison? Why or why not?

In her article, Jacobs argues that despite the massive sums of money at our disposal, we are failing to stop the spread of neighborhoods in major cities with poor living conditions. This is because the main source of the problem is not a lack of resources but a lack of understanding or care for how a city operates as a whole. Thus, her analogy between urban planning and medical bloodletting stands for her belief that the current methods of urban renovation, despite their complexity and prolonged acceptance, are in fact a "pseudo-science." Based on personal observations and the statistics which she has provided, I would say that this is a fair comparison. Clearly, city slums that receive government aid are not improving; in fact, many of them are getting worse. Therefore, the logical conclusion is to agree that, though professional urban planning has the appearance of a true scientific method through its widespread approval, it is not an effective means of improving the lives of people in slums.
What caused professional urbanists to call the North End of Boston called a slum? Why did Jacobs think this was wrong? Whose mode of analysis do you find most convincing?

Professional urbanists have called the North End a slum for many reasons. First, it is located near one of Bostons industrial sectors and contains numerous commercial buildings mixed within its residences. It is also the most compact, densely populated areas of Boston with very little space reserved for parks and recreation. In regards to street planning, some have said that the city blocks are badly cut up with wasteful streets. Lastly, the buildings are very old. Upon visiting the North End of Boston, Jacobs describes a vastly different scene: houses with Venetian blinds, fresh paint, freshly laid brickwork, renovated apartment flats with room to spare for their patrons, etc. Added to this, she tells of a town brimming with life, vitality, and excitement. Despite the statistics of the professional city planners, this area seemed to him to be no slum at all. Since I only read one person's account of this topic - an account aimed toward convincing me that the North End is not a slum - of course I found Jacobs' arguments most convincing. I do not believe simply looking at statistics is an adequate mode of analyzing a community of people. Like what Jacobs did, acquiring the best perception of a region involves actually seeing it for yourself.