There’s only one way to really know architecture (or anything else, for that matter): by being there physically, in person, i.e., to experience it first hand, eyes and mind wide open.
And yet as a reality, architecture remains, for most, beyond reach and regarded, if at all, as irrelevant in the context of daily life, a life guided largely by far more pressing matters. The closest experience, more often than not, is as seen through photography, video, cinematography, exhibits, writing, or a car window.
What then might be the point of photographing, filming, or writing about it, all of which are second hand representations, views through another’s eyes or, in the case of writing, with language which fails even more to fully capture it? When seen or read about at a distance far removed from the day-to-day lives of most people, do any of these alternate attempts at communicating architecture really matter?
Besides its possible entertainment value, there is in fact one important benefit offered by someone else’s look at architecture, regardless of the fact that it’s no substitute for experiencing the real thing.
It’s this: certain images, whether in the form of photos, videos, film, drawings, models, or words, have the ability to penetrate the barrier of prejudices that limit ones private view of what’s possible in life. They penetrate the imagination, igniting inspiration.
The concepts we form over the years about what life holds for us shape our expectations and consequently limit our search for something better.
A photograph or a certain phrase may, like an ember, burn through those barriers, igniting the tinderbox of hope and excitement that even the most stoic of us possess in some quantity.
Lit, the imagination then expands, opening doors to possibilities previously lying dormant. Life moves ahead, becomes more exciting, more alive.
Architecture, one possible expression of being more alive, when presented first as an image, may then begin its journey toward reality and be experienced as it actually is.
Anyone browsing my posts or Pinterest site will have noticed in various iterations the words I’m now using for a new caption, along with certain images that I thought might offer clues to the meaning of those words. I chose those particular words as an attempt to verbally convey something about the kind of architecture that resonates with me, that rings my bell.
But, architecture, in all its multi-dimensional reality, is experienced on non-verbal levels while moving through and around it. And so, because I’m alone here, silently pecking away at my keyboard reaching out into the digital void, I can only wonder how I’m being interpreted, or if my words are even registering with anyone out there. On the other hand, I know by comments I’ve received that some of you do, in fact, seem to grasp what I’m saying, at least to some extent.
Be that as it may and since my new caption, “…architecture of the earth and the living”, is so central to my writing about the built environment, I want to make the extra effort at being understood. At risk of leaving you annoyed by overworking the subject, I offer the following comments.
At the heart of architecture is experience. By experience I mean how we respond on all levels to our surroundings. Whether it’s a mountain cabin, an urban loft, or any other type in between, all that affects our senses in and around that sheltered space, is the stuff that needs to be addressed and then drawn upon in order for it to become architecture.
But what do I mean by “…Architecture of the Earth and the Living”?
For starters I mean:
- It feels at home in its setting.
- It draws on and is subsequently energized by, not just its purpose but also the nature of the things that make it – the materials and techniques of its construction as well as characteristics of the site where it’s built.
- It captures essences, or to put it another way: the enclosure and the space enclosed – two parts of one whole – derive from and connect to the essential characteristics of where it’s built, as well as why and how.
- It speaks and sometimes even sings to us from a place within, a source deeper than its surface.
- Its essential character resides in the materials of its construction, which then energize the space in and around it.
- It’s an honest expression of all that it is. Congruence is its main aesthetic virtue. It expresses it’s authenticity, it’s reality. It’s the genuine article.
- It has warmth, but in balance with coolness.
- It has softness, but in balance with hardness.
- It’s neither strictly masculine nor feminine; it may be both.
- It acknowledges the earth as its source and draws from that – the earth is in its DNA.
- It aims at enhancing awareness of, through its connection to, the earth – its poetry and its subtle as well as dramatic gifts.
- It’s a conduit of energy between exterior and interior worlds, between what and where it is and our inner world of experience.
- When located in a more primal setting some may call it rustic. But rustic does not begin to define it.
- It may be built with concrete, steel, sheet metal, wood, brick, stone, rammed earth, plaster, glass, or any other appropriate material. But it’s reality is the transformation of those materials into poetry.
Whether it’s built for a location far from civilization or in a crowded urban environment, “architecture of the earth and the living” originates from a source inherent in its own nature as a built structure and in the life that creates it.
It possesses a vital natural energy emanating from essences residing in the materials with which it’s constructed and the circumstances from which it’s derived, including its purpose – its reason for being.
It’s a place where life awakens, where a deeper resonance with life is felt; a place where being alive is more interesting, more itself.
At the risk of repeating myself and boring you, I’m once again inspired by what’s out my window…
It’s Fall. I love Fall. The first rain just passed through. Our wildfire season has been briefly delayed, but more importantly, my architectural spirit has once again been lifted. As always I was captivated by it’s spell. But, I must confess that doing this series of shots was also inspired not just by the weather, but in part by a post, “diffuse” on the blog, “donnell & day architectural journal”.
“…all buildings are connected to their surroundings, to nature above all – nature out there, as well as our internal nature as humans. It’s a continuous dialogue and also a relationship that can be quite intimate. Nature, in the sense I mean here, is the earth, the place that all of us, consciously or not, are an extension of, where we can turn to reconnect on a deeper level with what’s most important.” from “Tuning In, Tuning Out“
photography by Warren Lawson Architect
My last post, Tuning In, Tuning Out, was the inspiration for a series of photos of my home base, my foothold on this planet that continually feeds my inspiration. Following is the second of a series.
More to follow in my next post.