This weekend was full of work . I’m not complaining. But stating a fact. Part of the work is a modest design proposal for an addition to a house.
There are always lessons in everything we do. And this little design has reminded me of a few things I have known. Confirmed things I know even in a cobwebbed corner of my mind:
1. It is necessary to know when to respond with modesty over exuberance, no matter how talented a designer you are. And perhaps the lesson I needed to be reminded of. There is a certain critical effort that must be made to design thoughtfully while at the same time working from a place of restraint . Not all creative answers should be dominate , some should be quiet and simply fit in with what came before. This is the case for the addition I am working on.
The existing structure is a dynamic , yet simple, 1970 contemporary house. It’s dynamism is in it’s sweeping roof that is a singular gesture of form. On the rural landscape it’s primarily living area is visible as a single sharp pitched shed roof reaching from the ground and extending to the sky.
To take away this dynamic and singular move from the primary living volume by way of a bedroom addition would be disrespectful to the hierarchy of architectural expression . The best response is one of support. Of course making the overall building better, but not by making an over-expressive addition. Instead by making a better whole.
2. Most architects and designers work today with the use of the computer for 2-d drawings and models . And this had been my primary method for a decade . But with this small work I thought all handwork would be best, and faster. Because I teach architecture students I am well aware of their current use of computers, 3-d modeling and laser cutters. And I recognize the benefits of these tools, and use them myself. But the work this past weekend using pencil , paper, cutting blades and chipboard also reminded me how critical it is for creators to use their hands to understand their ideas, their work. From this process a clarity arrives, like the clarity we gain through concentrated meditation. The slowing down of the process in exchange for the immediacy of current technology asks us to think and be sure and clear of our decisions. The tactility of hand to brain connects us to the world in it’s reality like feet to a hiking trail, bringing connection and surety.
The process also reminded me of all the things I am capable of with my hands, the versatility of expression, creating, and making . And the deep knowledge I have collected over thirty years with my brain connected to the actions of my hands that allow me to make the art I currently pursue .
Mind to hand. We are makers in the world . There is no better substitution.