Monday, March 28, 2011


Architecture becomes interesting when it explores the idea of putting two or more things together, and experiencing the result. It can be the creative spark that happens with the juxtaposition of elements to create a new understanding, new meaning, and new vision.

When we hold two opposing or conflicting thoughts in our heads at the same time, our thoughts have more depth and complexity than if one simple thought resides. Pairing two complementary or different elements can create something entirely new. For example, when we pair a good wine with food, what we enjoy is a complexity of flavor that brings out something new in the wine. Often the profundity in design is similarly the result of a merging or collaboration of elements that encourages us to see anew.

In the design of architecture, we can put two materials together that we might not ordinarily see. Merging the two, juxtaposing them, allows each one to comment on the other. For example, stainless steel next to smooth stucco—each one can be a beautiful finish, each one feels smooth, but the coolness of the steel emphasizes the warmth and tactility of the pottery-like stucco.

So let’s take this a step or two further…

How do we pair things in our homes in order to create something new? And how do we pair things in our lives in hopes of obtaining an even more interesting result?
Combining several different textures in your home can be an easy solution to inviting that complexity in. For example, smooth varnished wood shelves against a rough stone wall. Or, satin and silk throw pillows upon a textured couch…a thick wool rug lying on a smooth polished concrete floor. Merging the two, and highlighting the contrast, makes each one individually more interesting.

Now for the more difficult question…How do we bring that depth and complexity to our lives? When we get accustomed to doing the same thing day in and day out…we begin to blur our vision. We become less and less observant and less present. If we were to inject something new and complementary to our routine, perhaps we would begin to take notice of that, and everything it contrasted. Perhaps the pairing would bring renewed awareness. For example, if you spend a lot of time talking on the phone, socializing at work or conversing with your kids and family once you get home, try to carve out a time for true silence. Whether it is a walk on the beach, a meditative pause, or a time to read or reflect, you will sense the profound quiet and stillness. The contrast of this tranquility to the typical mundane routine and chaos of your life will bring a new awareness you did not know.

For some of us, watching television every evening becomes habitual, and while we are tuning in to our favorite show, we are all too often, tuning out. Maybe try sitting on the porch or in the backyard with a glass of wine whether alone or with your partner. Or choose eating dinner outside on the patio by candlelight. This can add the depth and complexity that is lacking by contrasting that which has become all too familiar and ordinary.

"Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience -- to appreciate the fact that life is complex."
— M. Scott Peck

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