If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then access to the soul of a place is through its doors. Extending its hand in greeting, constructed spaces make their first intimate contact with visitors when they "meet" at the point of ingress. Many of the world's renowned buildings are thought of as living, breathing places with a unique personality and character often associated with the function to which those spaces are dedicated. The entrances of many such places are among their most celebrated features. Some entrances are so beautifully crafted that they form a point of cultural interest in and of themselves, and some are even valuable collectibles. The artistic and aesthetic investments of people and cultures make these points of access reflect the importance assigned to the people and places they silently guard. |
Some of the world's oldest civilizations create fascinatingly beautiful portals for their buildings that are endowed with mystical meanings. The bold, stark lines of traditional doors among the Dogon of Mali, for example, invoke the spiritual powers of sacred earthly creatures like crocodiles as well as of heavenly bodies like the Sun. Their abstract beauty directly inspired the cubist movement in European art after artists like Spain's Picasso became enthralled with them around the turn of the 20th century. Alas, the fame of these cultural artifacts today drives the pillaging of antiquities from historic sites in Mali. It also underscores the importance of museum collections, such as the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, that preserve this world heritage for the benefit of all.
Across Europe, ornamental art adorns the entryways to fabled castles and majestic cathedrals. The carved figures of the massive arched entrances of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, for example, are as much an object of tourist photography as the stunning stained-glass windows that pierce the stone walls above them. Likewise, Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore is celebrated for the technical innovation of Brunelleschi's enormous dome and for the many ornate doorways decorated with religious scenes and icons by great names in Italian art like Passaglia and Cassioli.
Inside the US Capitol, the so-called "Columbus Doors" depict pivotal moments in the famed Italian explorer's life. Carved by Rudolph Rogers originally as the Capitol's East Front ingress, they now give visitors access from the Main Lobby to the Rotunda. Ironically for the "City of Brotherly Love," the most famous Philadelphia doors may be "The Gates of Hell" at its world-famous Rodin Museum. Perhaps the most fascinating private collection is at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA, where the publishing tycoon's penchant for beauty fostered a stunning collection of historical artifacts such as 14th-century Gothic doors and ceilings from the "House of Jews" in Teruel (Aragon), Spain, painstakingly restored and now on public display at the Castle.
When shopping for Philadelphia doors, residents visit Elegant Door & Window. Learn more at http://elegantdoorswindows.com/index.html.
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