5. The Core

The root of my roots


Welcome to part one of the triple loop

‘Root of the root’[1]

I have repeated this phrase from a previous post – see page “The Guts” – as it is a fragment of an idea that has always romanced me – the idea of a journey (secret or in plain sight) that requires great effort; ending in nothing, something or surprises. Ever questioning what is the core? What does it mean? How do I hold onto it, translate it and bring it forward to the present from its overlooked resting place?

I was asked by a lecturer to define a core – for myself as a designer and future architect – he assured me that the list would most likely be short and that the items on there would become sustenance in the difficult seasons of practice ahead.

I have three, so far. They are simple, they are mine and they are consuming. I am at times outright evangelical about them; a burgeoning system of beliefs that I hold at my very core.

The first is the belief is that “Architecture Speaks”

 

This is plain, honest and true to me – it speaks – whether we listen is another matter. Whether we make an architecture that articulates plainly and intelligently (very difficult to do), or an architecture that rambles confusingly (often), an architecture that was made in an alternate dialect – planted and engaged – as alien in a foreign landscape (every building that brought change with it, that many cannot enjoy until time has passed and it becomes familiar), or an architecture so filled with stylistic trope, trend and farce that it seems to be inaudible under the heavy costume that adorns it (I’m a bit scared to offer example here…..lets just say many).

Whatever the conversation, regardless of audience, it speaks.

My greatest lament for architecture is when this opportunity to speak, to say something, to communicate is simply disregarded. Note, that even in those instances I believe the architecture still says something, it may not be purposeful, but it still speaks.

I understand that every approach is different, I respect that the world does not need to- nor should it – conform to my core beliefs. I am not that arrogant, all I am saying, is that my soul sings when I hear what the architecture is saying. I may not always understand the words and at times it is beyond my ability to engage with its intelligence, finesse and technique. Yet, even then, I delight in the murmurs I do not understand, because they are audible.

We expect to hear in large, stately buildings, we expect to hear in bespoke builds, we expect to hear in our peoples places and in locations where the world seems to invade the building at every seam with its beauty and transformations throughout the day.

There are some places I like to go a little slower and be more aware of what surrounds me; in places where people do not expect to hear. In the dense, overpowering and busy cbd, in a regular replaceable suburban street, in the fetish of a facade driven development, in a forgotten drive through only town – I believe if I can challenge myself to hear in even those places, regardless of the conversation it brings, then I win. My belief affirmed, despite reality/economy/culture/value etc. It’s talking. I hear it, I found it. The root.

 

Some architecture that is clear, clever and you might enjoy:

Architect: Steven Holl;

Project: Storefront for Architecture

http://www.stevenholl.com/project-detail.php?id=24

 

And some silliness….

a222

Author/Designer of above image regretfully unknown  ; If architecture can speak… grass can dream right?? How MAGICAL!!

wed-mc-212

Author/Designer of above image regretfully unknown  What I like to do, in the places where I live… be a better explorer here and now.

[1] Cummings Edward E, ‘I carry  your heart with me (I carry it in),www.poetryfoundation.org/poem. Accessed 03/08/2012.

 

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4. Favourite Stuff + Things (words+thinking)

Words Words Words


Frolicking with the Pink Elephants

I am quite certain that a part of my brain never moved on from my toddler years, my favourite and most frequently posed question is “Why?”, the not far behind runner up to first place  is “How?” I, like many other people have a curiosity and desire to understand the world I find myself surrounded by and occasionally – in the flurry of my comings and goings – find myself on unplanned treasure hunting adventures where I stumble upon something wonderful.

Today I would like to share with you a something; a somethings that I found on a side wall in a university corridor; printed on a single A4 page and attached to the wall with sticky tape. The humble everyday forgettable nature of its location is surprising to me, as its articulation, intelligence, stark honesty and warmth will, I am sure, speak profoundly to many.

How many times had I walked past this page? Having my blinkers on and schedule at the forefront of my mind – what else have I missed?

This peripheral data whispering over to me from a quiet unassuming place, has become something of a mantra:  a motivator, a soft place to land when I am being too critical of my efforts. When I read over it – which is often – I am reminded of my skin, my humanity, I close my eyes and breathe, I make the deliberate choice to allow myself imperfections and prepare myself to open my eyes again. I prepare myself because I know that in this moment I am allowing the fury of my thoughts, actions and schedule to lose its momentum and die down, I am waiting for the dust to settle. Because it is in that fleeting moment between activity and still – that I can see the poetry rise up out of the most surprising places, with such enchanting grace – and all at once I am renewed, inspired, open to my surroundings and my internal world. I am calm. I am ready to work, think and make.

walter

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Favourite Stuff + Things (chairs)

Did it all begin with Sesame Street?


 These are a few of my favorite things….

I am not entirely sure where my sense of wonder comes from – as the title suggests – maybe it was Sesame Street. In particular, I remember the journey of the orange crayon – from the familiar neat, new 24 packet box with a folding lid  - back through its processes. Beginning as a powder; to a massive vat of bright liquid; then squirted ever so precisely into moulds; cooked in ovens that looked as hot as the sun; then released from their pinchers and whizzed around what seems like a surreal and fantastical universe of conveyor belts and friendly machines. Finally, you know the journey is coming to an end, as the familiar form is recognised, its weight tested, the angled tip carved perfectly – each one is wrapped, sorted, boxed and shipped – from that distant somewhere place to me. This one little object comes from places I had never seen, met people and likely – other crayons – I had never met, how wonderful is that?!! And that’s just considering the orange crayon, I had another 23 – plus pencils and all sorts of other things that belonged to me.

This curiosity of origin and the life of things, is mixed with wonder about how haphazardly – yet sometimes it feels like fate – these objects wandered into the realm of my little universe.  Perhaps it is timing, influence, trend, fashion, maturing taste etc but for whatever reason this stuff, these things became mine. I adopted them and dare I be brave enough to say –  some of them I even – love! I feel ridiculously shallow to admit it, but I do, I am attached – romanced even – and unfortunately (or fortunately) as I look around my glorious little home I realize I have made little families of these things!

In no particular order – as favoritism is frowned upon, even though of course, there are a the cherished few –  but I don’t want to go through the wrenching process of articulating and categorizing as it is quite late. As well as the point that I would again consider myself ridiculous at my affection for them; and feel poorly that I didn’t include something from last week – which then, I liked more because it was raining and the light reflected on it differently – Yes. Let’s skip all that for now. What I will say is that within each little collection or family of types of things are various themes –  scale, form, line, age/newness, colour, weight, feel, material, markings, known origins cont. and very importantly for me – a sense of balance – each as a single object or as part of a growing and changing composition.

Did you delve last week when I couldn’t help myself and invited you to leave as I had? What did you find? Affection? Memories? Even, perhaps love? Or are you much cleverer  than I and simply see stuff as stuff and things as things? I hope whatever it is something was discovered, questioned, edited or considered. For now, I will leave you with your treasures, feel free to tell me stories (I love a good story) and I will go and take a seat in one or all of my various sitting spots.

I am the glad to say, that I presently have 23 chairs that belong to me. They are regularly re-arranged like tetris pieces throughout my little home…. and even though 23 is a good and sound number – in terms of options of where and how to sit in a home – that doesn’t even include the other three ‘seats’ which were inherited when I moved in, that are a part of the structure. Here are some captured; please know that I moved them about, sat, thought, adjusted, sat again and tested the rightness of each before sharing it here, I cannot quite imagine my home, my place, my sitting, without them.

 

chairsflat

 

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2. What are you connected to?

How to know what to bring and what to leave behind.


Lets start at the beginning – You Are Not An Island.

I by no means am a de-cluttering expert; the idea is preposterous to be honest, my closest people would potentially laugh until they cried.  However, I am quite good (and growing ever better) at thinking, questioning, editing and balancing myself between my past, present and future.

I would very much like too touch on the ‘stuff‘ and ‘things‘: that you have acquired, boxed up, carried about with you and unpacked over and over again. Mainly because they are a particularly fun, idiosyncratic and wonderful way to connect with people beyond the facades we often erect.  While I am quite certain that there are very real tangible reasons, themes and trends that weave and connect such an array of objects and treasures to you and your life so far. I do think that before we delve into the delicious detail it would be more advantageous to step back and take in the whole vista .

                                                                                                       (Side Note: I was already distracted, hopefully I am not boring you or myself! But if you are distracted as well – be my guest – delve into your treasures for a few hours and then when you are ready; pop back up out of that wonderful, sentimental place and join me for the rest of this piece.)

My point? Marinate the muscle before the sinew.

Muscle? You….. identity, thoughts, ideas, values, relationships, hopes, fears, dreams, passions, past, present etc

Sinew? Stuff+Things….. delightfully arranged selected morsels; delicately sewn into intricate patterns that communicate, form, support and reaffirm the muscle.

Relevance: There are threads that connect you to – everyone, everything and everyplace - you have ever encountered; some connections have been girded as their significance increased, others purposefully cut away or simply waned from lack of use.  I want to prompt you to consider that they exist; and then engage in that maze long enough to trace, identify and reassess each (or some) of them.

What has this got to do with design and architecture?

The process of making is unique to every person, the more I can encourage you to know who you are and what you are connected to – the more you understand yourself – the more stability you put under yourself. That stability will make the practical easier, for instance: when feeling the pressure and complexity in how to balance scope, time and budget over the course of the project – you will have clarity and purpose in your thinking and priorities – because you know your roots and trajectory.

Additionally this idiosyncratic wonderland becomes a very valuable resource to the creative people you have added to your team – it gives them meat to work with. That can translate to inspiration, which will end in spaces, textiles, art, sculpture, furniture, landscaping….. and all the rest….. that will sing quietly (or loudly) too you, capturing the ephemeral moments you treasure (or lost) and re-knotting the ties to you.

A study model – abstracted from a story of a life that imploded, in one moment all perceptions of past, present and future have altered. The once sure and steady facade that faced the world erodes to reveal the now seen connections to all that was and is now known.2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

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1. Who are You?

Building a Home


What on earth have I gotten myself in for?

Stop! Breathe! Don’t panic.

Take a moment to be excited at the amazing possibilities! The fortunate juncture you find yourself at to create such a marvelous thing! Acknowledge the work, toil and dedication it took you to get here – let go, let yourself dream, what do you want this thing – to be and become?

A home? A place? An investment for the future? An expression of yourself? Your point of view? A knitting together of partners, families,  human and/or fur babies? Pause and consider all the significant dwelling places you have known, write them down, recall what was significant about each, what senses were heightened when you were/are in them? What is easiest to remember? Location, light, colour, smell, touch of textile or building materials? What would your transfer forward into your own place now if there were no limits?

If you no longer have access to them – what is occurring in your everyday moments now – when you run smack! BAM! Right back into the memory of these significant places? The shape of a driveway, the scale of a front door?

If this is all starting to seem to fluffy, silly or a waste of time – just hang in there! Let me help you see how it can translate into practical ways of thinking that will assist in making the decisions ahead of you.

For me, I grew up in a rural place so trees are significant and so is open space; later I moved to the city and carved out private nooks in what was to me, a very exposed way of living. Those roots and transitions have influenced how I like to form and approach space – i.e small interconnected spaces leading into, alongside or within much larger, expansive spaces.  

As well as offering an approach, these memories and origins also interrupt my everyday through colour, texture and form. If I feel a certain grain of timber or texture in concrete, see a familiar curve or specific shade of leprechaun green – I remember our lounge room walls – and how after some time we realised the satisfying way they performed and fulfilled the role of ‘back scratcher’ – too humans and pets alike.

Weird? Perhaps.

But to me, I learnt that walls can be made of all sorts of things, it opened my mind to what is possible; it also taught me I am a very tactile person, I like to touch, feel and know what the physical world around me is made of. The overall outcome is curiosity, a valuing of dynamic relationships and a treasured desire to dwell, craft and belong to my places.

How exquisite! Get excited!! Let that energy drive you forward; because you will certainly soar to the highest of places and drop to seemingly endless low valleys. Don’t be overwhelmed, keep hold to the origins because they will sustain, energise and inspire you!

positive-quotes-53 (1)

 

Author/Maker of above Image- Regretfully unknown

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The Words that Drive… What do the elephants whisper?

‘A part of our future appears to be evolutionary and unpredictable, and another part looks developmental and predictable. Our challenge is to invent the first and discover the second’ John Smart – Accelerated Foundational Studies.

 ‘I never saw an ugly thing in my life – for let the form of an object be what it might – lights, shade and perspective will always make it beautiful.’ John Constable

 What does the building want to be?’ Louis Kahn

 ‘Architecture is about ideas in the first place. You don’t get to design until you have an idea.’ LebbeusWoods

‘Artists use frauds to make human beings seem more wonderful than they really are. Dancers show us human beings who move much more gracefully than human beings really move. Films and books and plays show us people talking much more entertainingly than people really talk, make paltry human enterprises seem important. Singers and musicians show us human beings making sounds far more lovely than human beings really make. Architects give us temples in which something marvelous is obviously going on. Actually, practically nothing is going on.’ Kurt Vonnegut

 ‘A house can have integrity, just like a person,’ said Roark, ‘and just as seldom.’ Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

 ‘The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.’ Christopher Wren

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Acknowledgemnet is the 1st Step

I was recently posed with a question – “What is the hardest thing about architecture?” – as a graduate, with a Masters degree that took ten – yes ten – years to complete, this is a valid question.

Initially, it took me three days to consider a response and after an additional two weeks of considerable thought and rambling conversations I have arrived here.

The summation of my exploration thus far is simple – to me -

The hardest thing about architecture – is the fullness of my mind; the ever stimulated senses; the thirsty creative heart; the glorious un-ending to do list of future and current projects/tasks/ideas – big, medium and small; the struggle to devote myself to it; the difficulty of getting work; registration (no you are not an architect once you graduate – and for good reason – explaining that to everyone);  knowing that in my mind much of what is built is a missed opportunity to communicate, connect, etc etc.

……. the list continues……….

But for the sake of focus; the title of this blog encompasses it - My marinating elephants –  familiar and unique; they are simultaneously my dear companions and thorns in my side; more than anything else, I adore them for they are mine – I now ask you, who are yours?

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