- How to find the line between creative search within the tradition and separation from it?
- In my opinion, to create something new, we need to understand the old very well. It means copying, studying different architectural styles. In particular, in our studio architects and designers try to spend one hour a day in the library. They study books and albums, they learn and draw. Only when we are well "immersed" in traditional architecture, are we able to create something interesting on its basis. Something that will be new and at the same time will be within the tradition of the Church.
- Often the architects try to do something modern, but the result leaves much to be desired.
- Yes, sometimes there are heaps of glass facades, triangles and incomprehensible shapes. There is the cross on top, there is an altar and iconostasis - but there are so many questions. Designing a temple, it is important to take into account the psychology of the parishioner's perception. We should know how color, light and shape affect a person. The theological aspect is also important. Yet, there are some examples of good modern Orthodox architecture today. They somewhat do not fit into the traditional ideas about it, but do not have anything anti-canonical. The element of creativity and development is always present, but it is important to approach it consciously. We should live it through theology and liturgy. Of course, we should use the flexibility of the mind, capable of going beyond the usual, while remaining in the field of tradition.
- You once said that Orthodox church architecture conveys a sense of God's presence because there is hesychasm in Orthodoxy. But are modern architects able to use such levels of perception in their work?
- In general, I believe that the practice of hesychasm brings a person the closest to understanding Christianity as such. It has the only methods that allow us to comprehend God directly, to touch Him. Of course, the modern world does not give us the opportunity for a concentrated life that we had before. But we are all called to awareness and to spiritual work. Christianity is not limited to a set of moral rules and participation in worship.
There are also some differences between East and West here. On the doctrinal level the West rejected the possibility for a person to comprehend the Divine and come into contact with His energies. Saint Gregory Palamas taught that a person can know God through His energy - the grace. The West took the side of his opponent, Barlaam of Calabria. But if a person cannot touch the Divine directly, then in this theory the Trinity becomes self-enclosed. Its manifestations, revelations and energies do not reach a person. They manifest themselves only at the level of allegories and signs. This turns the perception of God into some kind of fantasy, into hermeneutics - a revelation to interpret.
Theological ideas are revealed in church architecture and art. And we can see that already in Gothic style God remains beyond the limits accessible to man. The Gothic churches go up with their spiers, they stretch towards heaven, but the person remains somewhere far below. This is certainly beautiful, but the vector descending from above is lost. Later in humanism the center is no longer God, so distant and incomprehensible, but man. The Baroque and Neoclassical architecture adorn the visible world in the likeness of our ideas about Heaven. In humanism, Christian work is reduced to social service, and true mysticism is reduced to the Sermon on the Mount. Of course, this is also important. But it means that you just need to do good deeds, and only beyond the bounds of earthly existence will you meet God. Meanwhile in Orthodoxy the Kingdom of God is here and now, and we must know it, commune with it. The very system of vaults of an Orthodox church says that the revelation of God is given to every person. In their exterior forms, the Russian churches stretch towards the sky too. But inside they are lower, the Heavens seem to bend over us, saying: God is with us.
- Modern Western churches have departed quite far even from the Western tradition.
- Modern Western churches are already abandoning their traditional forms. It is because people still crave for Heaven, for the knowledge of God. The search goes on. Now in the West the churches are very ascetic. There is a wonderful work of light and space there, you can attune to something higher there. But this reminds of the temple of the "Unknown God", mentioned in the Acts of Apostles. It seems like the Western architects abandoned human ideas, looking for something more, but have not found it yet. There is a certain Presence there, but it seems impersonal. And perhaps it is not in vain that in recent decades the West has seen a new interest in Byzantine and early Christian art. There is a search for something genuine. I look at this with great enthusiasm. Today in the West I see churches that are very interesting in their architecture, although they are unusual for us. And maybe it will grow into something more, if the image of God returns there. Not only at the level of a sign or allegory, but at the level of His presence - a living symbol.