From time to time or fairly frequently I am asked about style, or aesthetics- most often the word I hear is in regard to a certain “look” of our work. The word I love the sound of, and one of those rarely you would get to use in normal conversation is oeuvre, which is to say in other words a “body of work”. Over the years I can see a progression of certain details and materials and a fascination for bringing different aspects of architectural expression together. For example- I love rafters and we have created many different ways of expressing the resolution of a roof’s efforts, or romantically – the way water runs down from the ridge to the eave, and drips into the gutter, all held in place elegantly and effortlessly- by the sculpture of a rafter tail. Even in my first moments on a job site, I still love to look and see their legions, high and lifted up, maybe 20 feet in the air- ready for the hard work of decades and perhaps centuries of protecting that house.
On style, it’s hard or difficult to pin down why a certain direction is taken- or how that direction got charted in the first place. I don’t think it is a totally conscious decision it feels more intuitive and subconscious- why one material is luminous and another is loathsome, or lackluster. Just as an example- I love stone, don’t LOVE brick- why? I have no idea. It even sounds blasphemous to say “i don’t love brick” …seriously? Aren’t you an architect? But compared to stone, well to me- there is no comparison. When I do use brick, typically its covered in stucco or mortar- or painted. I want to see a WALL, not a bunch of little b-b’s jockeying for position. Just saying… Now I will get letters from the Brick Institute. Again, this is merely an example of the inexplicable. A process of predilections and leanings which form, along the way- a style. We call that- “our version of the truth“. I use brick all the time, please don’t send me nasty comments (humor added). Just one more thing about stone, its not a stone if you can pick it up with ONE hand. That, is a rock. You throw those… away, hopefully.
I think more than anything there is what Sir Isaac Newton termed, “standing on the shoulders of giants”. I became more the student of history after I left college, in part because I realized my own attempts to scare the world with a new resplendent architectural style all my own were actually quite scary to, me. Perhaps had I actually paid attention in all those architectural history classes I would have found some ideas worth keeping. But when you are 18 years old, you can’t be told a whole lot. I had my own ideas about how things should work, no matter if it looked like concrete waves or UFO landing sites, and could never be built. After some time I began to discover the old masters like Lutyens, Mackintosh and Voysey. Those were the English (and Scottish) heroes who championed a style we today call Arts and Crafts. There were lots of other famous thinkers of that age, but those were the ones who still today I hear whispering through my pencil as I draw, erase, edit and create- of course, now they speak with a slightly more southern accent. Their work was clean almost modern and timeless. In a word it was elegant, and for me and others- still inspirational even today, 100 to 125 years later.
In the middle of the last century there came a great shift in architecture away from traditional and familiar design towards a new expression and philosophy. In a large way our work is more akin to the designs of the 18th century- which perhaps in some ways is again new. I have been inspired and borrowed from the ideas of many of the leaders of this revolutionary group- such as Wright, Kahn, Corbusier and Scarpa- whose works I have discussed and portrayed on this blog previously but in this post more specifically.
Modern day heroes also abound, even though it may be difficult to demonstrate in most of the work we do, it is inspirational to marvel at the technological innovation and creativity of others. Those in this still living group (impossible to list them all) would be- Gehry, Calatrava, Liagre, Foster as well as Herzog and de Meuron. Is a theme nascent? If it is I can’t see it, maybe it is too close to see… I know to me, it is of the utmost import to be inspired, in hopes I may somehow, inspire others. Inspiration is my goal for our work- as well as the fuel necessary to create it. Einstein is quoted as saying, “creativity is knowing how to hide your resources“, which is amazingly humorous- coming from one who surely had few resources to pull such a unique thing as the theory of relativity out of his hat. From the creations and inspirations born from the lives and work of these masters and mentors, I am happy to share a few of mine.