Monday, November 26, 2012

The Symbolic Power of Objects

We instinctively know that when we see a single standing stone, it marks something (or so we believe).  Two posts create a gateway, three a family, four a room, five a counsel and many, well many are likely to be grouped in subgroups of one, two, three, and four.
If we contemplate the one stone, we sense authority and before long a paternal, maternal, or authority impression of the stone creeps into our heads.  The two stones or posts appear to be guarding an entrance and we approach knowing that we may have to ask permission to pass.  Three (let’s say of varying sizes) gets us identifying father, mother, and child.  And four, depending on their placement will present an organized entity whether they enclose a space or provoke you to ask (as you would a panel of judges, sages, or grandparents), “what do you want?”
We do not need to work hard to perceive the symbolic nature of objects; their meaning will jump out at us if we let it.
Cliff-face houses in Ravello, Italy
As a stone mason and landscape designer, my eye/mind is always on the prowl for visual prey.  This carnivorous approach to the world around feeds itself; the more I notice, the deeper I can see.
Applying the strength of observation gained from this exercise helps when I am challenged to design in an environment that is new or strange.  Call it visual survival skill.
It also connects me to the anonymous ancient designers of the stone age through the present, not a bad way to time-travel.

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