"Things are such, that someone lifting a cup, or watching the rain, petting a dog or singing, just singing – could be doing as much for this universe as anyone.” Rumi
The Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality hosted its 2015 International Symposium embedded in the serene setting of the vast and inspiring landscape of New Mexico in the southwest of the United States. Its central theme was to explore how experiences of nature and of otherwise ordinary things in our everyday existence have been elevated to the realm of the spiritual and imbued with special meaning for individuals, societies, and cultures in the past, and to speculate on what designers can do to facilitate the connection between the quotidian and the sacred in the built environment of today.
The Seventh Annual Meeting of the Forum took place June 18-21 2015 at Ghost Ranch, an education and retreat center 14 miles north of the village of Abiquiu, New Mexico, and about two hours by car north of the city of Albuquerque, the closest major airport. Ghost Ranch is surrounded by national forests, the mesas and pueblos of Native American tribes, and the natural beauty that acted as the inspiration for the artist Georgia O’Keefe (former owner of Ghost Ranch where she spent most of her career as a painter). It offered the ideal setting to contemplate the theme of the symposium in an environment of great natural, cultural, and spiritual power.
As in the past, the symposium was structured around several subtopics focusing on various aspects of the general theme, and the number of attendees was kept small on purpose to secure an atmosphere conducive to personal connections and in-depth dialogue. Optional meditation was offered each morning and there was some free time for connecting to oneself, other people and the surroundings. A keynote address by Rina Swentzell, renown artist, author, and scholar on Puebloan culture, values and philosophy, contributed to our collective understanding of the meaning and symbolism of the physical environment of Native American populations of the region. The other two keynotes were Argentinean architect Eliana Bormida and Notre Dame Emeritus professor Norman Crowe, both with a remarkable grasp of the relationship between nature, culture spirituality, and architecture.
The Forum for Architecture, Culture and Spirituality is an international scholarly group established in 2007 to advance the development and dissemination of architectural and interdisciplinary scholarship, research, practice, and education on the significance, experience, and meaning of the built environment.