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Victor Hugo
Variety, Eternity, Proportion : Time was the architect - Europe was the builder

From: Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris

Rediscovering the Path to Europe
Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe

The connection of "time" with "architecture" may lead to a misinterpretation of Hugo's text. Hugo here does not imply a determinism, there isn't any Idea that emanates and is realised in time out of inevitable historical forces and their relations. On the contrary! "Time was the architect" means that the idea is in constant formation, that there is no architect at all save only partial contributions to this formation. Time, in this context, is not a mechanical process, it is not the clock-time, but the time of memory and will, where past can be something to be achieved in a future that will never become present. In this sense, time becomes a presupposition of history as an endless creation. 

"Europe was the builder", means Europe was the force - the will and the ideas. "Time was the architect", means that ideas are not points in a linear process, but they interact. Europe can not be, properly speaking, an architect, because the interaction is infinite. Time is this exactly the infinity of freedom - a very creation of the European mind which has transposed all architecture in the pure probability. 

To use an example, there isn't any circle and a circle's idea, but the circle itself is a part of an idea that will never exist. Thus Notre Dame is able to transcend its elements, which otherwise would be just accumulated, becoming an invitation and a sign of farther interacting and creation. 

We say, "variety, eternity, proportion", and thus, side by side in between the commas, time becomes accumulative. But this comes only out of syntactical necessities. We would understand Victor Hugo better if we read this like asking, for example, how a varied eternity can be united in a proportion, what kinds of proportion we can have in an eternal variety, etc. 

By proportion Hugo does not mean so much the predominance of a mathematical law, necessary only to an initial stage, but the structural necessity of a living organism, which usually violates some or many proportional relations. It is logic as a law of nature, where freedom is not always and not only a decision.

- E

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    Cf.  Pictures of Notre Dame by Kostas Katsiyiannis. Cf. by V. Hugo: In a grand parliament of intelligence, My Revenge is Fraternity! (margin: the Enlargement of Civilization) * R. Scruton, Architecture needs a Grammar * Giannopoulos, The Greek line & the Greek color


Rediscovering the Path to Europe Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House

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