Tucked away on a tree-studded, 40-acre plot just a quarter mile from the Hudson River, one of New York’s most unusual construction projects is underway. The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)—a transdenominational church and registered nonprofit—has been constructing the Entheon: “A place to discover god within.” The three-story windowless art space will be a temple to, among other things, original “visionary art” from the church’s husband-and-wife co-founders, Alex and Allyson Grey. The couple, who have been together since first meeting (and dropping acid) in 1975, previously ran an art space in Manhattan. After closing down their Chelsea outpost in 2009, Alex and Allyson moved upstate, where they have been running their collective and a psychedelic variant of a bed-and-breakfast. Their Wappingers Falls location hosts monthly full-moon festivities, as well as large concerts and events. Placing art at the very center of their faith, the estate already features large-scale architectural artworks, such as the three-story gazebo-temple Altered States made by artist Kate Raudenbush, who describes herself as “New York-based, Burning Man–bred.” Alex Grey is perhaps best known for his hyper-detailed paintings of human bodies set on trippy backgrounds that reveal the figures’ underlying circulatory systems, musculature, and spiritual meridian points through translucent skin. Grey's audience has not been limited to a cult following of the chemically inclined; he exhibited at the New Museum in 1986. For members of CoSM, visionary art is at the center of their cosmology—like pre-iconoclastic medieval clerics, they understand art not just as a gateway to the divine, but as the manifestation of the divine itself. It’s only natural that this artist-pastor couple would need to build a sanctuary for creativity. Selecting a point on their 40-acre plot that aligns with the solar plexus of a projected goddess, “the kabbalistic sephirot of justice,” CoSM has begun converting a former carriage house into a three-level, 12,000-square-foot concrete structure replete with modern amenities, including an ADA-compliant elevator. As with the foundation of the Greys’ relationship and their church, psychedelics and entactogens play a central role in the eccentric design of the Entheon. It was, in fact, a (then legal) shared MDMA experience that showed the Greys they should not sell their work, but rather build a chapel to share it with a “worldwide love tribe.” Though currently a bare concrete structure, there are big plans for the Entheon. Highly detailed renderings by Ryan Tottle (an Academy Award-winning animator who has worked on major films such as Disney’s Frozen) promise an architecturally complex and spiritually rich exterior. The proposed building is a veritable mythological bestiary. Four-faced ancient-Egypt-inspired “Soulbirds” guard one door. Another door features a design that returns Adam and Eve to the Garden of Eden. Winged “Angels of the Creative Imagination” punctuate the facade, interspersed between the larger “Godheads” that comprise the bulk of the outer walls. These Godheads “bear symbols of different world-wisdom traditions above each Cosmic Eye.” “DNA dragons” rise up from the corners of the roof to its center—liquid and vibrating creatures whose sides are a continuous double helix, a form that, according to a likely false urban legend, was discovered by British molecular biologist Francis Crick under the influence of LSD. Allyson’s “secret writing,” a script using a 20-letter unpronounceable alphabet, will run the upper edge of the Entheon and be guarded by sculpted “Angels of the Four Directions.” And these are just some of the building’s creatures and spiritual guardians. The roof—trypophobes beware—is a concentric array of eyes; called “Collective Vision,” the imagery inspired by a DMT experience of Alex’s that Allyson had the insight to suggest as a roof pattern, a “canopy of consciousness.” As a free e-book on the Entheon points out, “Collective Vision” is a visual motif that has appeared in the graphics and on the stage sets of “America’s number one cult band, Tool.” The collective hopes to use cast concrete, 3-D printing, and other technologies to realize this energetic facade. The three-level interior of the Entheon is intended to be equally elaborate. Through the ornate gold doors there will be, among other spaces, a Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, with its Gothic-style arches; the All One gallery; a museum shop; and a reliquary room featuring the spectacles of the first person to both synthesize and take LSD, Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman, and the ashes of the legendary Harvard professor and psychedelic evangelist Timothy Leary. Leary’s famous Millbrook mansion, the site of so much psychonautic exploration, is just over 20 miles away from CoSM’s own estate. Fundraising for the Entheon continues. The first cycle of fundraising began in 2013 (plans to build began around 2012). According to its website, the church has raised $2.3 million so far. For devotees, the Entheon is the logical next step in their faith of art and love. As Alex told Mushroom Magazine in July 2015, “We believe the inevitable consequence of love is the building of temples.”
Posts tagged with "Experimental Architecture":
We’ve all heard a lot about “smart cities” and “responsive architecture,” by what about architecture that tells secrets? Murmur Wall, designed by Jason Kelly Johnson and Nataly Gattegno of the experimental design practice Future Cities Lab, does just that. The pair describes their site-specific installation at the main entrance to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in as “artificially intelligent architecture.” “We are interested in exploring how data can become visceral, tangible, and poetic,” Johnson explained. “We’re experimenting with its potential to create meaning and a sense of place within the contemporary city.” Murmur Wall harvests local online activities—via search engines and social media—and broadcasts select phrases back into public space. Visitors to the wall can also contribute anonymous secrets, rumors, and gossip to the wall at the website murmurwall.net. Unlike many interactive artworks that rely on screens to share information, the sculptural installation uses a steel tube armature and illuminated fiber optic rods. LED lights embedded in the acrylic tubes illuminate the stream of whispers along the length of the Murmur Wall. When the real-time data reaches the 3D printed “pods” embedded with LED display, the small, embedded screens display a brief text before the data continues on as a light stream. This integration of digital and architectural strategies comes from Future Cities Lab research and teaching practices. Both designers are faculty at the California College of the Arts where Gattegno is Chair of the CCA Graduate Architecture program and Johnson coordinates the CCA Digital Craft Lab. Their work embraces the booming tech culture all around them in the Bay Area and then grapples with potential architectural applications, finding solutions that go beyond smart city catchphrases. “There is a lot of talk these days about how the Internet of Things will make the city more efficient, informed, and productive,” said Johnson. “We are more interested in its potential to connect people, to help them share ideas and experiences, and create communities in the physical world.” Revealing secrets is the first step. The installation is open and accessible to the public 24/7 at the Mission Street entrance the museum. A second Future Cities Lab piece, Lightswarm from 2014, is on view on the south facade of YBCA’s Grand Lobby.