Lately I have been working on several designs in places not in our region; and have had alot of fun stretching and learning how things are done in the western parts of our great country. As things progressed I have also learned more about myself and how I think and what I believe in, from the perspective of design- what resonates as true, good, desirable and another wonderful virtue, appropriate. I love appropriate because it will weed out the superfluous, capricious, or exotic items in favor of the indigenous and reasonable.
Appropriate takes no prisoners is a no bullsh#%*t guy (its the John Wayne of my design philosophy), appropriate just works- is reasonable, unquestionable, intuitively correct. Now I am also positive that appropriate could possibly be an excuse for boring, but that is why we have other words like delight, or my personal favorite- the zinger. Amongst all this thinking and design work I have also enjoyed immensely the prescribed exercise to demonstrate the idea- which is even better than words, and transforms and transcends words which is namely, to draw. I became an architect based mostly on my hearts desire to draw. I believe something magical and potentially spiritual- takes place inside a person when they pick up a pencil and whats inside them comes out in a drawing, no matter how crude or how elegant, something deep of ourselves is revealed. The whisper of a sketch is almost like a secret; by which we see what was hidden inside.
Like these cave paintings, some from (if you believe in carbon dating) as far back as 35,000 years ago, but to say the very least from pre-historic times, even before we had pencils we had the desire to draw to create imagery to communicate our ideas through visual means. I still doodle strange shapes that aren’t readily understandable while I talk on the phone, What? YES- I was listening to what you said! The love to draw is seminal and obviously primal and apparently innate rather than learned, maybe like running a 4.4 second 40 yard dash, or being 7 feet tall, some people have it and some don’t. As they say in sports, “you can’t coach speed”, height either for that matter. I think unfortunately people miss out on the enjoyment of sketching for fear of what? So try doodling when you are on the phone, (at your desk not in the car) or in a cave- and see what happens.
The subjects of my own latest efforts are not animals and not drawn on cave walls but still, I have noticed what comes out frequently has a life of its own. Though there are a variety of factors and influences like say, (topography/views/solar orientation/ light/ clients/ style/ budget) ok can we leave the last one off- that must be considered in the creation of a thoughtful place I find that also that some things just resonate. One of these is a sense of scale. Since most people are about 5 or 6 feet tall and as such, have a certain feeling relative to the size and breadth of a building, that it is way bigger than they are, it can be sometimes a little intimidating. In terms of making it more approachable and hopefully inviting, I believe the thing should be broken down into smaller pieces. So, in these cases where it could be just fine to put everything under one singular roofline and have the footprint be one “big box” -I prefer instead to make it a series of boxes each with its own smaller, more bite size “hat” of its own.
So what to do with these little casinos. Exploding apart a building; besides making for interesting possibilities and experiences creates two additional important virtues. One, it enables LIGHT and air to move in and around the interior rooms over the period of a day which is life giving to the inhabitants. Two, these smaller boxes can be arranged to create wonderful OUTDOOR rooms in which to smell the roses. Like sit outside, get some fresh air, feel the warm sun in the early spring, plant something you can eat, or just enjoy the color and scent of, do some al fresco dining. Porches and pergolas are great for this but don’t have to be the end of the trip, more to be a transition INTO the true out of doors space- the courtyard; Websters defines as an area wholly or partly surrounded by walls or buildings- (aka the plaza, piazza or my favorite the cloister).
I suppose the deeper issues of why these kinds of places resonate to us would be fascinating to understand and worth the effort to unearth all the reasons. I will leave it to the psychologists to nail it all down. I think making places with more possible experiences creates a richness of life, of living. I think it has to do with Bill Gwin’s statement that good design should “provide for opportunities and not to limit“. Leonardo da Vinci is quoted as saying, “where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art“. I know that like my pre-historic and famous friends, armed with my pencil I am still figuring it all out.