Recently I found myself wondering why certain architecture seems, for me at least, to defy the typical slide into boredom that results from over-familiarity. Why do certain buildings, over time, continue to have a grip on me? Why do they move me, elevate my experience of being alive?
Historically and in the present, many buildings possess that power, built environments that I consider, if not exactly beautiful, at least capable of capturing my attention. But their main attraction is different from that of a certain group of work, one that over time continues to take hold, one that, regardless of its flaws, typically elevates my experience of life and its possibilities.
As you may have guessed from some of my past posts, there’s the work of one architect, in particular – Frank Lloyd Wright’s, that no matter how jaded I might get, regardless of how old or passe his work might become over time, how over-exposed, over-hyped, built up, or knocked down it gets, no matter how critical I might be about certain aspects of his work, I still continue to be drawn to and moved by much of it. Of course, there are many other architects whose work possess similar power – for the most part, each share common essential characteristics. But Wright’s work, in particular, stands out and provides me with a readily available point of departure for my reflection.
What, then, is it about this particular work that gives it such power? I thought I would see if I could identify some of it in a few words – an admittedly personal and non-rigorous look. Since my purpose here is driven more by my need to grasp underlying principles than to please the reader, I apologize if you’ve given me the benefit of the doubt up to now without any reward. On the other hand, if it does ring a bell, I’m happy. Better yet, maybe you’ll want to look for yourself at what moves you architecturally (or in any other area), and ask why.
In any case, this is what I came up with as my brief answer to why certain architecture has this power:
- It romantically embraces life – especially human life, from which it is conceived, and the earth, from which it takes shape. It conveys that embrace with feeling that runs deep. Human life and the earth are at its core.
- It uses materials in a way true to and expressive of their authentic natures; that resonate with us on a deep, primal level.
- It eliminates the non-essential in conveying its central idea and in support of its central purpose which is to shelter life.
- It accomplishes this with the implicit – if not explicit – acknowledgement by some, at least, of those primarily responsible for bringing it to life that we the inhabitants are thinking, feeling, spiritual, experiential beings deserving of such environments – that the potential for joy is part of our heritage as humans.