Sunday, February 27, 2011


Passageways mark our transitions from one place to another.
In architecture they are arches, doorways, entrances, opening, foyers, gates, lobbies, or porches. They bring awareness that we are making a transition.

We may each be going through our own transitions; embarking on a new job, beginning a marriage, or ending one, going off to college, becoming a parent, moving into a new house or to a new city. Our lives are made up of many transitions all pieced together.

There are so many conflicting feelings that are attached to these passageways: fear, anxiety, possibly excitement, and hopefulness. We often feel a combination of emotions as we are passing through to what is unfamiliar, and that may bring confusing discomfort and veiled uneasiness.

Aware of our own apprehension, we strive to make our passageways inviting, unique, and memorable.

They should be to scale. When passages are massive and overwhelming, they do not take into account the human scale. In essence they fail to acknowledge the human spirit. That can make us feel too small and powerless. Instead, a doorway needs to invite us through feeling safe, and able to walk through with confidence and certainty.

Passageways should be inviting and interesting. While we have our conventional doors and standard opening sizes, why not redefine those? Still marking our transition, a door can be surprising in size or unexpected in shape. This invites our attention and coaxes us to pass through.

And lastly, passageways should pay homage to the transition. When we try to ignore the reality of our transition, we awkwardly stumble with its abruptness. Our awareness of the change that is upon us, recognizing its significance, and understanding our trepidation helps us to welcome the passage.

Whatever passage you might be approaching, make it memorable.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Architecture as Habitable Sculpture

So much of what we acquire or admire in life are things we need to survive such as food and shelter; or things which give us a sense of status and importance, such as racy cars and fashion couture. Uniquely, art serves neither purpose. It is simply pure beauty for our eyes and nourishment for our souls.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
-Thomas Merton

With so many facets to the art world, architecture is unlike most other disciplines. Architecture must not solely be an object to be admired from afar, but rather, be sculptural art to be walked in and through, it is to be touched and used, it is to shelter and protect. True architecture engages the viewer or visitor – it enhances and deepens the experience of a space. That experience is as important as the aesthetic result.

“There are three forms of visual art: Painting is art to look at, sculpture is art you can walk around, and architecture is art you can walk through.”
-Dan Rice

By creating sculpture that we inhabit, architecture resonates with us, because it identifies and pays particular attention to the very needs we seek as human beings. Often what we appreciate in architecture is what we strive or search for in our own lives:



By speaking directly to our intrinsic needs, architecture becomes a human experience. Perhaps that is why we feel a quiet understanding when we enter a powerful, awe-inspiring space. Without quite defining the elements of its beauty, we intrinsically know that we feel connected to it. We feel our awareness awakened as the space somehow acknowledges our human need.

We feel the tranquility...

or the commanding strength...

or the pure simplicity of the space...

It is not always something easily verbalized...
but it is usually something felt with genuine force.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Trendiness vs. Timelessness

In response to last week’s blog, the question a reader asked was….
"At what point does a building become eternal?"

For a building or space to become eternal, there must first be a moment where the building or space is alive, where it embodies a soul. The architect is usually the first to feel the moment when his or her creative spark gives birth to the project. And somewhere in the creative process, the project itself, with its new found spirit or personality, begins to lead the design, and generate the design decisions that follow.

And once the space is built, when does the architecture transcend from “living” to “eternal?”

I believe that the moment the building leaves a lasting impression on any one viewer/visitor, that is when its eternity is sealed. Because it is in actuality, our memory that makes the building eternal. It is the indelible mark a space etches onto our memory that grants it timelessness. We leave that space forever changed in our thinking, or perhaps in our vision, awe-struck by the experience. Once the “awe” factor has been ignited, it is hard to ever let it go. It will stay embedded in our memory as we bestow upon that building a cherished timelessness.

And that leads us into today’s topic of trendiness versus timelessness. Timelessness is a quality that remains invariably powerful throughout time. It sort of suspends itself between time, unaffected by its passing. But trendiness is the following of what is fashionable and often faddish at a given moment in time. They are quite the opposite. Certainly when we see a trendy building, something that might be “cool, hip” and “of the moment,” we feel an excitement as we respond to its vitality and boldness. However, over time, that diminishes as a newer trendiness gains momentum, and overrides the old.

Timelessness is quite the opposite, since it does not heed time. Its strength or power remains unaffected by time or the fashionable changes that come and go. It has a sophistication, an understanding, or a depth that resonates much deeper than a trend can possibly evoke. For example, looking at the fashion world…the stretchy neon disco pants of the 80’s had their moment. But I think we could agree that their moment has now passed (thankfully!). But the little black dress is a timeless piece that has the classiness, clean structure that accentuates a woman’s body in a timeless way.

Similarly, architecture can define itself as a trendy project, or a timeless one. While a trendy design can shake things up a bit, bringing a lot of attention to the project because it is unusual and “new,” it can; however, later become stale and dated, unable to stand the test of time.

For timelessness to be achieved, I believe the space and/or building has to resonate for us on a deeper level, in a way that transcends time. When we are in a space that has the awe factor, and we sense its enormity, or its exquisite detailing, or the ethereal quality of light against texture and form, we have experienced timeless beauty. It is those buildings that will continue to inspire, long after the latest trend disappears and is forgotten, long after each visitor leaves, and even well past the building’s life expectancy. It is the memory of our experience of the architecture that will hold it timeless.

Friday, February 4, 2011

An Indelible Mark

This week, with the passing of a dear family member and the six month anniversary of another dear friend, I was reminded about our mortality. At some point we all reach the finish line of life. It arrives either with sudden shock and loss, or is defined by a gradual letting go of this world. And as we arrive at the finish line, we will have had the ability to leave a lasting legacy, a vivid memory of ourselves.

The more engaging and intertwined our lives have been, the larger the legacy, the more timeless the memory that we leave behind. Hopefully, throughout our lives, we have all been enriched by many wonderful and unforgettable people who have made an impression, an indelible mark on us. In having known them, they may have elevated our lives with their special connection and significant meaning. They may have changed our understanding of love and friendship; and we are certainly better for having known them.

Certain buildings and spaces too can be such powerful experiences, that they too leave their indelible mark upon us. With that impression, they become timeless, enduring, and sustained in our memory. These buildings enrich our experiences bringing beauty and aesthetic awareness to the forefront.

There are certain buildings that etch themselves into our minds.

The Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, that sits afloat the water, defying its weight and looking as if delicately placed upon a sheet of ocean, is extraordinary.

The carved out Italian plaza amidst a sea of buildings

An ethereal interior

Searching for depth and meaning in our lives is essential to the human experience. People and spaces can come into our lives, that literally inspire and change us. It is this quest for significance and personal fulfillment of not only our physical needs, but those needs of our souls as well that can transform a mundane existence to a life that is profound, authentic, and unforgettable.