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wexnerFrom an address by Ravi Zacharias:

I remember lecturing at Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in this country. I was minutes away from beginning my lecture, and my host was driving me past a new building called the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts.

He said, “This is America’s first postmodern building.”

I was startled for a moment and I said, “What is a postmodern building?”

He said, “Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, ‘Why?’ he said, ‘If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?’ So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it.”

I said, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”

He said, “That is correct.”

I said, “Did he do the same with the foundation?”

All of a sudden there was silence.

You see, you and I can fool with the infrastructure as much as we would like, but we dare not fool with the foundation because it will call our bluff in a hurry.


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4 thoughts on “Ravi Zacharias on Postmodern Architecture at Ohio State”

  1. SLIMJIM says:

    I’ve heard this illustration from Ravi years ago and I think it still beautifully illustrate the truth of how nonbelievers operate with an irrational unbiblical worldview on the surface but at root they have to presuppose or lay their worldview on top of a more firm foundation…

  2. Phil says:

    He said, “Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, ‘Why?’ he said, ‘If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?’ So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it.”

    Well, this cannot literally be true. It is, after all, a Center for the Performing Arts. There are performance arts spaces in the building, for example, that had to be designed.

    Given that this statement cannot literally be true, my guess is this incident never really happened. (Also, it just makes too good an anecdote.)

    1. Joseph McCulley says:

      I am wary of neat, “just so” anecdotes as well, but might I suggest a couple things?

      One can learn to recount their experiences in a way that highlights the point they are trying to make, while remaining truthful to the reality of the experience (Take the synoptic gospels, for example).

      Also, fabricating a story to make a neat point seems to be against Ravi’s character, in my opinion.

      Just some thoughts. Hope you’re well.

      -Joe M.

  3. Phil says:

    (Has something happened to my comments? Are they being lost in the ether? Or are they found to be not worthy of being posted? At any rate, here is the third time I am sending the comment below–Ah, I will take out the links to other articles. Maybe that is the problem.)

    Joseph,

    I think I ultimately agree with you.

    The problem is that this story–as it is framed now–doesn’t really make any sense.

    The statement “He designed this building with no design in mind,” is both 1) nonsensical and 2) clearly not true since the building was designed to be a Center for Performing Arts.

    Let’s try a thought exercise. Rewrite the anecdote so as to give it the meaning Ravi wants, and yet make sense….

    Host says “He designed the building to reflect the idea that life has no meaning, and thus included elements such as pillars that have no purpose and stairs that go nowhere.”

    Ravi says “So his argument is that life has no purpose, so the building should have elements that have no purpose?”

    “Did he do that with the foundation?”

    Eh, it doesn’t work (or does it?). But I think it has lost much of its punch.

    Moreover, this anecdote seems to both grossly misunderstand the Wexner Center and post-modern architecture: Specifically, Eisenman never said such a thing (as far as I can tell), and the point of post-modern architecture is not to reflect life’s meaninglessness.

    (hot link here to an academic analysis of the architecture behind Eisenman’s Wexner Center).

    (hot link here to wikipedia’s entry on post-modern architecture, specifically its aims and characteristics)

    Given that, what value does the anecdote give? I think, in the end, it feels like a cheap shot–one that plays to the audience.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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