1st Edition

Kenosis Creativity Architecture Appearance through Emptying

By Randall S. Lindstrom Copyright 2021
    274 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    274 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Kenosis Creativity Architecture locates and explores creativity’s grounding in the ancient concept of kenosis, the “emptying” that allows creativity to happen; that makes appearance possible.

    It concretises that grounding through architecture—a primal expression of human creativity—critically examining, for the first time, kenotic instantiations evidenced in four iconic, international projects; works by Kahn, Pei, Ando, and Libeskind. Then, in a final turn, the potentiality of architecture’s own emptying is probed. Architect and author Randall Lindstrom draws on Western and Eastern philosophy, including that of Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Vattimo, Nishida, and Nishitani, as well as on the theology of Christianity, Judaism, and aspects of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Every chapter expands the argument that, if responsiveness to our world is taken seriously—if proper and sustainable responses are to be realised—then a deeper understanding of creativity, and so kenosis, is essential.

    This book opens-up a way of thinking about creativity and humanity’s readiness to be creative. It thereby presents a crucial enquiry—at the nexus of architecture, philosophy, and theology—for researchers, graduate and postgraduate students, and practitioners alike.


    Foreword—Jeff Malpas


    Part One—Foundations

    1. Introduction: Awaiting Kenosis

    Thinking about Kenosis

    Thinking about Kenosis through Architecture

    Thinking about Architecture through Kenosis

    2. Kenosis: A Synoptic View

    Locus Classicus


    Medieval Thinking

    Modern Development and Revival

    Analogous Concepts

    Postmodern Radicalisation

    Part Two—Manifestations

    3. Modernism and Order: Kahn at the Salk Institute

    Religiosity and Design

    Theories in Practice

    Creativity Ascribed

    A Deeper Provenance

    4. Post-Modernism and Empathy: Pei at the Museum of Islamic Art

    Container and Contents

    Cultural Translation

    Situational Response


    Dervish-ness as Kingly-ness

    5. Neo-Modernism and Nothingness: Ando at the Church of the Light

    Criticising Perfection




    Valorising Imperfection

    6. Critical-Modernism and Kindness: Libeskind at the Jewish Museum Berlin

    Illustrations versus Captions




    Spectacularity and Exemplarity

    Part Three—Amplifications

    7. Turning Away and Turning Back: The End of Architecture

    Barriers to Emptying

    Emptying to Create

    Grounded in Emptying


    8. Conclusion: The Grace of Dis-grace




    Randall S. Lindstrom, PhD, in more than forty years of architectural practice, has served clients on four continents and received frequent recognition and awards. Since 2011, his primary focus has shifted to academic pursuits at the University of Tasmania, where he is Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture and Design.

    "What concerns Lindstrom is the role of kenosis as a central element in architectural thought and practice, as well as in the built forms of architecture. It is through this connection with the architectural that Lindstrom also connects with creativity. And, as architecture is essentially creative, so, too, is Lindstrom concerned with the way the kenotic character of architecture illuminates the character of creativity—the way in which a form of emptying is indeed at the very heart of creativity, and so at the heart also of architectural thought and practice as such."

    Jeff Malpas, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, University of Tasmania

    "In a period in which arbitrary production, characterized as experimental, is a predominant form of creativity, Lindstrom’s remarkable book refreshingly resets the foundations of architecture and creativity by uniquely and boldly taking, as its basis, the concept of kenosis. His writing eloquently mediates the theological mystery of divine self-emptying and the practical capacity of architecture to find its own ground in emptying; to await, to accept, and to be continually transcended by the situations to which it is called to respond."

    Dr. Jin Baek, Professor, Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering, Seoul National University

    "Randall Lindstrom here breaks ground, where theological and philosophical underpinnings of the holy mystery of life reach for revelation. With the strong substantiation of academic and scholarly brilliance unfolding across disciplines, with the marvel of disarming design and aesthetics, the emptying thrust of kenosis theologically carries the wonder of the servant. Lindstrom helps us do something we frequently fail to do, which is to acknowledge the breadth across which emptying serves and liberates."

    Rev. Dr. Arthur A. R. Nelson, Emeritus Professor, Dean, and President of North Park University and Theological Seminary, Chicago

    "Regardless of the countless studies in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, the creative capacity and act remain largely unknown. Randall Lindstrom approaches this enigma in the context of architecture, through the philosophical and theological notion of kenosis, which also touches on modes of eastern spiritual thinking. The writer is erudite, devoted, and sincere, and he succeeds in evoking the reader’s genuine interest in the mental process of emptying as a condition for new creative visions, thoughts, and emotions to enter. He contributes a new concept and way of approaching the greatest human gift, creativity."

    Juhani Pallasmaa, Architect, Emeritus Professor and Dean, Aalto University, Helsinki

    "This remarkable book is a highly original contribution to the theory of architectural creativity, unpacking its ethical imperatives while criticizing their prevalent excessive formalism, suggesting ways to do justice to the local quality of places and diversity of cultures. Rooted in philosophy, yet authored by an architect/scholar with hands-on awareness of contemporary practice, the study argues, through the Christian concept of kenosis (emptying), for a more humble attitude in architectural design, less arrogant and top-down, suggesting a useful framework for creativity in our complex world of global practices and conflicting and converging values."

    Dr. Alberto Pérez-Gómez, Bronfman Professor of Architecture, McGill University, Montreal

    "Creation is not simply the emergence of something absent, but also the emptying that enables appearance in the first place. This idea is at the center of Randall Lindstrom’s excellent study of the ancient notion of kenosis, or "emptying," by way of architecture. We know how kenosis manifests itself in religion, philosophy, and art, but no one has attempted to show it through architecture. How might architecture look if viewed through a kenotic lens? Is an architectural kenosis possible? Lindstrom responds to these difficult questions drawing on architects such as Louis Kahn and Daniel Libeskind and philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Gianni Vattimo. His ability to read them together is unique. Readers will not only discover something different about architecture and philosophy, but also a new intellectual path that Lindstrom has generously opened up, through kenosis, for all of us to pursue."

    Santiago Zabala, ICREA Research Professor of Philosophy, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona