Architecture of Cities: the World

Dreams of Architecture’s Silence: “Shhh”

I have been a nine-year-old bright-eyed with wonderment for ten separate days in my life: They were days that were filled with surprises and dreams.

When I turned ten years old I remember seeing eighteen orcas body surfing naked in an ocean of paradise. The same waves were also inhabited by seventeen mermaids rapturously shimmering naked from the waist up.

I knew then that if I prayed loudly I would see things that might never be seen again. I have never prayed: My visual compass, not my moral compass, has kindled a fire in places where a prayer or two might have been heard. You might never know what they will mean until the light says hello.

Kenzo Tange Architecht St. Mary’s Cathedral Tokyo, Japan.

My imagination routinely discovers places that no longer exist. My camera has discovered ten- thousand sacred moments.

Nearly one million visitors enter Mecca each year. The sounds I will never hear live in the moment where all bodies bend the knee in prayer. The volume might sound like waves pounding in the Sea of Cortez: But how many people have heard that crush.

When I attempt to capture religions’ architecture priests and rabbis have a need to show me how to see their places of worship. They place their arms around me, instruct me where and how to look. My interests are not theirs. I see the sounds that only I can hear.

The ideas behind many of my pictures continually remind me of the silent genius that was Charlie Chaplin: The sounds live muted on film before your eyes: their stories are in your eyes: and they become my pictures.

I own my personal dreams:  a place to worship within a dream: I am cozied up against the girth of a nine-hundred-pound Grizzly Bear: We lean against a tree like two birds counting trees in the forest: Our eyes stalk the Coho Salmon as they migrate upstream to spawn in May and after: We watch a sleuth of bears: they spend the mornings and parts of the afternoon catching and missing the silvery and red meal to be. I am rooting for the fish to escape capture: the “grizzly” is for the other side…and so it goes: The day nears the night and my Grizzly ends his afternoon with a mash of caught salmon.

I have never merely photographed a building: I am never merely communing with the spectacular geniuses I have met and dreamed of meeting: The minds of Oscar Niemeyer, Zaha Hadid and Frank Lloyd Wright were brilliant creators: When I stand in front of the built community I imagine mingling within their dreams: Dreaming about what may be.

Orthodox Church of Kyiv, Ukraine.

When I land in a city with a mission at hand, I most often hear a metronome on steroids atop of a piano. The synchronized feverish pitch of the white natural C8 push me towards speeds I have only imagined:

I most always never walk: Funny but true: when the idea mounts in my mind what I need to do: my mind says run: My body looks around and says  “ok, this is me running”. Faster and faster I run. I have never not run to my destination: The visual consequences could dampen the heart and mind: Imagining if you didn’t arrive soon enough to see the intended photograph: You never want to hear your mind scream “oops, I missed it”.

Antoni Gaudi. La Sagrada Familia. Barcelona, Spain.

The cities of the world I have seen for architecture, have offered and unveiling of the built homes of prayer: I ran to the synagogue in Florence: I ran to and through the blistering heat that surrounds Agra’s Taj Mahal: I ran straight into the BLUE Mosque of Istanbul: I ran across cemeteries in Samarkand to see the sacred Jewish place of worship: I ran through fields of grass to see the light atop Frank Lloyd Wright church in Pennsylvania.

When I landed in Yusuhara, Japan I realized more than at any time I had stepped into the light and darkness of religions: I witnessed the innocent intimacy of a commoner’s light and darkness:  I know I have seen monuments: I know I have seen what is perceived as the grandest models of religions architecture:

I imagine there was a reckoning when I stood face to face with the grandest designs that have weakened hearts and minds for even a few seconds or many millenniums.

But in this tiny village, I imagined I saw the quietude of sound: This tiny village stood with great pride but with little else noticeable beyond the geography: There was no sound to be heard just the silence to be seen.

Kengo Kuma. Yusuhara, Japan.

All photographs by Richard Schulman.

Richard Schulman is a photographer and writer. His books include Portraits of the New Architecture and Oxymoron & Pleonasmus. He lives in New York City.