Introduction: The Idea of the Chthonic

This lecture will introduce the theoretical basis to ‘chthonic’ work, in contrast with tectonic. Shown as residences, churches, shrines, meditation spaces, civic structures and tombs, rock-cut architecture occupies a central place in many global civilizations - even persisting into the present day in forms such as subway systems, underground market spaces, and the occasional itinerant work of architecture. In ‘rock-cut’ architecture, the structure is deeply integrated with the native earth, with structural properties that derive directly from the geology of the site and place. Construction is focused on material to be removed, not structure to be assembled. The native stone guides the gravity forces around the carved space, not to a ground plane below, but simply deeper into the earth – a resolution of forces that can never be precisely determined. This property will be emphasized to adduce discussions that are both philosophical and practical.

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