Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Tower of Babel (1563). From Art to Architecture
Keywords:Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the art of time, the art of place, the Bible, Northern Renaissance, Flanders
Aim. This paper examines the meaning of The Tower of Babel (1563), Pieter Bruegel’s painting, as a physical, cultural, social, and architectural herald of the modern skyscraper. The interpretation generated will form the background for a contemporary analogy to the modern skyscrapers. These large-scale aesthetic structures, form the sensation of an unnerving lack of space and does not correspond with the existing urban outline. Similar to the tower at the painting, that is a symbol of the lack of connection between nations and peoples, the skyscraper follows in the footsteps of its predecessor that symbolized the confounding of the languages.
Methods. Four theoretical approaches will be utilized: (a) Examining the place of the painting within common approaches to the biblical text, based on familiar examples; (b) Converting the biblical story into a painting; (c) Analyzing and evaluating the painting from an aesthetic perspective; (d) In order to overcome the alienation and lack of community we shall utilize the phenomenological notion of place and space, which opens a path to architectural experiencing that promises to connect the individual to the environment, the world, and the community.
Results. Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s approach to the biblical story and its artistic portrayal teaches us that The Contemporary Torah (2006, Genesis 11:1-9) is a timeless and universal story that illustrates human pretense, a lack of adequate self-evaluation, arrogance, and stupidity.
Conclusion. The artist understood all this very well and possessed the originality and the daring to represent it even in contradiction of contemporary conventions.
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