Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athena, Grece
Does History contain the Project?
B o g d a n M i n c ă
History does contain the Project—but it can equally well be said that the Project frees itself from History and leaves it behind. This is a paradox, and we should try to understand it. Everything revolves around the word “to contain,” which, if authentically understood, should mean two things: 1. to dominate, to lead, to direct the thing or the person contained; 2. to liberate, to lead towards liberty, to let the contained be, so that the contained can reach to the truth that is its own and only its own. This type of containing is most pervasive in the way parents truly relate to their children: giving birth to them, encouraging their first steps, supporting them throughout their lives. On the other hand, the most authentic way to love your child is to lead him/her to the point where he/she becomes able to stand on his/her own, that is, to reach his/her own truth on his/her own. It is only then that the parental containing attains its maximum: namely, when the contained is set free to attain its own maximum, i.e. to reach out for its own truth. We have here to deal with an irreducible tension, characteristic for human nature, where two elements attain their maximum by investing reciprocally all their efforts in letting the other attain its maximum: liberation through dependence.
Thus, History does contain the Project, but it should do it in such a way that the Project can become a self-contained Project: a unique, unrepeatable Project. By so doing (and only so), History attains its own authenticity, i.e. to be a whole of unrepeatables (and not the trivial sum of predictable and controllable, quantifiable elements). These unrepeatables call each other and provoke each other, encouraging each other to attain its unrepeatable own.
In ancient Greek, we find a pair of words that suggests exactly this tension: genos— eidos. Genos represents the idea of family and belonging to a group (a whole) in which individuals have something in common. Eidos, on the other hand, means “appearance,” “aspect”. If genos denotes the community, eidos expresses the individual, the unique and unrepeatable appearance, obtained precisely against the background of a genos and never by itself.
In order to illustrate these thoughts—and to linger in the Greek space that experienced this supreme tension for the first time in Europe—I will say a few words about the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, accomplished in 2016 according to the plans of the Italian architect Renzo Piano. The ensemble revolves around the building that houses the National Library of Greece and the National Opera House. Looking at it, you realize that this building evokes, in a new and unrepeatable way, a Greek temple: it has a white, thin, plane, glossy roof, supported by delicate pillars, so that the roof seems to float over the Opera House and the Library. It’s like a cloud that stands above the building, protecting it, enclosing it, and thus containing it, but still keeping a distance that lets the building be and fulfil its role. It seems to me that the construction of Renzo Piano brings again to life—but in a new and unrepeatable way—the essence of the Greek temple: to gather together heaven and earth, the gods and the people, i.e. those who contain and those who, thereby contained, are set free to search and find their own meaning of humanity.
Bogdan Mincă, PhD, studied philosophy at the University of Bucharest and at the University of Freiburg, with a focus on phenomenology. Currently he is teaching phenomenology, latin greek, and greek philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest.