A Path Least Traveled – Part 2…The Path – p.1

Maybe by now architecture has caught your interest and you want more of it in your life.

I want to offer you some things to consider in settling on an aesthetic direction. Consider them insights on possible paths leading to an architecture made for you – for who you really are. Where that path leads will be up to you, but, if built, will impact the visual landscape of your world.

First, to begin at the beginning, I’ll give a quick look at what needs architecture serves.

Architecture has its roots deep in the primordial human need for shelter – for refuge from the external forces of nature and for security. Feeling safe and secure lie somewhere near the core of conscious considerations regarding where we live. These needs, consciously or not, are high on anyones list of priorities if they’re planning to build.
indigenous architecture
John Lautner

But, also laying in the deep recesses of the subconscious are those vague beliefs and preferences underlying the choices of architectural style, of what one’s chosen environment might look and be like. In most cases I think the need for safety and security tend to gravitate one toward a type of architecture that’s familiar and recognizable, i.e. one that’s safe.

early FLW

Architecture, however, is nothing if not complex. Many factors shape the long line of decisions leading to its realization. In this case, the importance of architectural safety and security (i.e. for architecture as refuge), shares mental space with the need for architecture as personal expression.

Kengo Kuma

There’s a need, I’m certain, in all of us to give expression to something residing deep in our psyches – the profound need to experience life, our own, in the form of something outside ourselves. We need to make visible our deeper sense of self, of who we really are, and to experience that.

Sverre Fehn

This need informs our choices of environment that we want our sheltered spaces – our homes – to be, what kind of architecture we feel drawn to and its defining characteristics. My deepest values about who I am, my deepest sense of my relationship to reality – the stuff buried most of the time beneath the plane of consciousness – all this seeks expression as I start thinking about and visualizing my ideal environment, my home.

Because imagination in the beginning typically draws on stored images, the ones most easily remembered, the first attempt when trying to picture an ideal home often resembles those of childhood.


As a consequence, the houses of childhood, not surprisingly, often become an impenetrable baseline for choosing and then instructing the architect on a design direction. Those images and memories often wield the force of law. Deeper exploration of other possibilities is, for all intents and purposes, effectively blocked.

Along with childhood memories there’s another influence, equally strong – a powerful attraction to buildings of the past, buildings with character and romantic stories. Castles, villas, estates of the old aristocracies, often become first choices on ones fantasy list. Forcefully backing up this quest to somehow replicate the past might also be the need for prestige and status, the need to impress.

These influences, benign in and of themselves, nevertheless often energize a strong resistance to exploring other possibly more life enhancing directions, and almost always limit the search.

The architect, usually knowing that so much more is possible, but thinking he or she can make the most of a limited situation, in most cases trudges on – in rare cases quits, and more often than not, fails to advance the design very far toward something more original and relevant.

The results are familiar, safe, and most likely, generically traditional, or, where resources are available and demand strong, excessive. The costs more often than not seem to far exceed any spiritual benefits. Such benefits, judging by what’s been built, are apparently seldom considered or understood. Maybe they’re just ignored.

What then is an alternative? Unsafe vulnerable buildings? Hardly. Different for the sake of being different? Maybe. But, architecture grounded in the present, approached with an open and inquisitive mind, offers a much wider range of possibilities.

See also page 2 of this post.


See also Part 2…the Path, p.2

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