In my recent posts I’ve been drawing your attention to several architects whom I regard as visionary. Their work has stretched the boundaries of what architecture might be.
Now, I’m aware that some of you who’ve checked out these posts or my Pinterest site and are curious about where I come from architecturally may subliminally assume that what I do as an architect mirrors or attempts to duplicate those other works.
With this post I want to try to clarify how I’m influenced by the work and ideas of other architects.
As I touched on in other posts, the architecture I’m drawn to speaks to me in a way that affirms my sense of life and my relationship to the earth. With regard to life’s possibilities they’re, for me, a “yes”. In some way they raise or broaden my perspective on my life and its possibilities. They make my life more interesting.
On the other hand, I know that what I personally get from this architecture is, more likely than not, different from what might be derived by others. Being realistic I know that I’m less likely to be approached to design something for a client whose picture of what they want architecturally may be different from what attracts me. The good thing is that it needn’t end there.
Because I try to be accepting of the role visual language plays in an architect-client relationship, particularly when considering that the language of architecture is foreign to most clients, being understood is a top priority of mine.
This, of course, begs the question: if I know or suspect that my preferences may turn away potential clients, then why in the world would I put effort into broadcasting them to the public at large?
The simplest answer would be that my preferences may also attract clients who share them. I like this answer, but it also makes me uncomfortable. It’s too simple. I don’t know that I would be able to wait it out. I’m not really so masochistic or passive as to believe I could survive as an architect by following that strategy.
Yes, I am in fact wanting potential clients to get a profile of my preferences. But something larger drives me to put myself on display this way. By putting my preferences on public display I’m letting you know that the work of others inspires me and broadens my perspective, that such inspiration plays an important part in my life. It influences how much value you, as a potential client, derive from my creative energies as your architect, whom you’ve hired and who will have such an important impact on your life.
Having said that, I need to make a distinction between being inspired or influenced by other architects and trying to be like them or copy them. This is an important distinction. As an architect, I find copying the work of others to be an unacceptable quest. What originates with someone is uniquely theirs and becomes second hand and unauthentic when duplication is attempted.
Rather than moving me to reproduce it, architecture that engages me fuels my creative energies and drive to discover more of what might be possible when designing. And since it’s not possible or reasonable to create an entirely new language with each new project, the fragments of other projects will always be present. But this is quite different than attempting duplication.
Since many projects are of a less ambitious scope than is implied above, it may seem besides the point to make such a big deal out of inspiration. That conclusion would be a mistake.
Since so many projects are in fact predominately about the nuts and bolts of getting something built, it may seem that inspiration is irrelevant. But even with a project of limited scope such as a room addition, the placement of certain components such as walls, ceilings and openings, not to mention the choice of materials, colors and hardware, will be a factor in how one responds to the final results. How and where they’re placed will be influenced in no small part by the strength and extent of the designer’s creative energies, as well as the client’s willingness to allow for creative exploration.
An inspired architect is far more valuable to a client than one apathetically resigned to remaining invisible, one who, perhaps, avoids trying harder to capture a project’s unique potential.
Anyone pondering the proposition of whether or not to build would be well advised to allow for the wide array of preferences held by their architect. An architect’s inspirations bring life to a project. Yes, building is a lot more than being just about inspired design, but without it it’s at risk of being lifelessly still-born.
Anything that’s designed as part of the built environment, regardless of its scope, can only benefit from the cross-fertilization between architects, from their being inspired.
See also my companion piece, Bridging the Gap – redux.