6a. Pit Stop – Our walls embrace

Ours….


…….. still Ours

My refuge. My joy. My relief from any and all events in the outside world dissolve as I cross that threshold and am back where I always long to be.

I know I am not alone in this. I know the word, idea and experience of ‘HOME’ is loaded for many of us.

It is for me.

This is not the first time I have wrestled with the concept – between the unfamiliar and perhaps unreal romantic notions of happy families, the data that clearly states I have never physically been homeless – and therefore have resided in a ‘home’ of sorts – and all the other thoughts, feelings and layers – one things resounds for me.

My truth.

While thankful for the many roofs I have had over my head; I had never fully known what a home was – or could become – until I made one.

Not shared, not inherited, Made.

I cried when the agent said I could rent this little – quirky, inviting kind of little, well proportioned, questionably air and water tight, likely not having a scrap of insulation – but it is overwhelmingly endearing, charming, secure and our safe little red brick houselet.

It is on loan to us, we rent from kind good people. And I do my best to care for it very well as if it was going to be ours for the rest of our days.

I had a home for us!!!! So HAPPY – for almost three years, there was rarely a time when I didn’t hurry back here.

But things go bad, my darling got sick – his bravery was the stuff of heroes, against insurmountable odds and circumstance his kind, sweet and cheeky spirit never faded – it was my greatest privilege to be his person.

For the first time in my existence I wanted to rewind, and as a ‘do-over’, no edits or changes, just a complete repeat – to soak up every drop of the life we had – instead I walk into the abyss of grief. It gets darker as time passes.

More losses – his smell – that was a real rough one.

Shockingly you adjust to the vacuous void that is the ever present absence of him. His favourite objects and snuggle spots remain unused and empty. I find myself reduced from 33 years old to a toddler as I pack a bag and take something of his with me, it shocks me, but I know it helps.

Each loss compounds the earlier loss –  the moment I felt breath leave him for good, knowing it would not return – this grief, whatever unit it is measured in – effects me to the point that I try to articulate it as a way of coping, I decided to call it ‘internal flaying’. Somehow the comfortable and loving life we knit together – was being horribly and painstakingly un-knit and I did not like it, any of it, at all.

The one simple grace I return to over and over is – that I know his pain is over and I know he is safe, happy and free again. That is my relief.

I drag myself about attempting to feel or engage again –  and somewhere in that movement I wonder if it would be more bearable to leave – he isn’t actually coming home; no matter how much I beg or attempt to fool myself or find refuge in my memories – this is it now.

And then one day, I paused, I just wanted to lean on one of our walls and soak up that  spot. It was in the hallway, we would have walked through that place together all the time; this was a place we lived once, this home was ours once, a piece of fabric I had hung on this wall when we moved in had half fallen down sometime after my boy had died. I remember it happening and thinking – ‘oh, ok, maybe I should fix that, maintain everything as it was,’ but then I thought, ‘no, it is comforting to have a visible and physical confidant who reminds me – it is ok to fall apart’. Somewhere in all these moments, I knew if my walls had arms – they would have reached out and engulfed me.

The visual made me chuckle – crying and laughing, I gathered myself up, patted the wall and thanked it – for reminding me that even without arms, they could comfort me. With a moment and a deep breath the reservoir had opened up – as if the bricks had been completely saturated with our love and joy – simply due to their proximity to us.

Maybe I don’t need a repeat, I’ll take one if it is ever on offer, but for now I will look around our much quieter, much calmer, much emptier home and smile while I cry, knowing I am not alone. The walls know it too, they know our life too and as I lean on them, I swear they reach out and embrace me.

Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

To our perfectly formed, wonderfully rich and kind Home. I love you too.

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6. The Core cont.

Delve a little deeper


Lean into the bend as we get to part 2

The first turn of this oddly made, amorphous gathering of beliefs is quite important  in the discipline of architecture. It revolves around the eye, position of the body, the nature and position of the architecture and is a critical factor in the decision making process for all those attempting to obtain it: just think  how many times have you heard the expression – $1,000,000 views?

The second belief is simply the appreciation of and desire to –

 ‘Value Views’

While this of course includes taking in glorious vistas, merging the interior and exterior, blurring boundaries and playing with sequence and staging  – from arrival, navigating the body through spaces, enticing the inhabitant ever beside the crescendo until they reach its peak. Whether directed externally to setting and the seasons or internally to central courtyards or secret embedded nooks, this finale is  a deliberate, meaningful and encompassing exchange between designer and inhabitant. The outcome of such phenomenological sequences is often a sense of reverence for what has been experienced and a sense of privilege to partake in this idiosyncratic and ephemeral play.

This belief while pragmatic in terms of optimizing monetary value of property and creating a pathway in and through the space that is captivating; it also extends to the practical ethos of how to design, make and build,

Collaboration.

Unless you happen to be the sole occupant, designer, builder and trades person for this project – you will work with other people.

Note I did not say ‘have to work with other people’.

I do not see collaboration as a negative thing – this is a bit odd in terms of design – as designers tend to have visions they are quite precious about and are invested in seeing them eventuate as they see fit. Don’t misunderstand me, sure the ‘idea’ of collaboration is romanticized and even alive and well in exceptionally dynamic situations; but for the most part I see and hear a lot of blame, undermining, politic, pride, agenda and disrespect.

I think much of this belief for me is knowing my limits – while I challenge them to grow – I am only one person.

In my many years of hospitality work you learn to value true collaboration and the golden ticket of mutual respect. Rare. Very Rare. But I find if you offer respect first, know your limits, ask questions at the right time and offer any grace, knowledge or support at your disposal, it is actually possible. And that machine, with a single goal, will kick into gear – time will fly, the wave of service is ridden smoothly (or at least without complete disaster) and within all the craziness a small part of you sings.

You will encounter many specialists and problems in design and architecture – while taste is subjective and I encourage editing – never be cautious or forgetful to ask the specialists questions: what they would do? why? how? Seek understanding and their point of view and within those interactions will be nuggets of gold – maybe not always relevant for the current project – but valuable nonetheless.

One of my most memorable crescendo’s and finales in architecture was the first time I saw the Sydney Opera House. It was about 2am and the surrounding plaza was fairly empty, I had my eyes lowered to the steps rising beneath my feet so that the finale would surprise me – I didn’t want to peek, but take it all in at once. I was nervous when I reached the final step, I paused and then looked up –  immediately I was stunned, breathless and brimming with tears.

wonderment. amazed.

I drew closer, touching the handcrafted tiles that cover the surface, knowing they were fabricated off site and sent here for assembly. difficult. trust in each person involved to have the care and skill to actually put this thing together.

The most resounding part of that memory for me was a respect for the thoughtful lighting surrounding the building. It unforgettably lit the space gently, a warm and soft glow, knowing that brazen and hard spotlights were not needed for something so recognizable and familiar. The lighting added to the drama and I am certain that it was no mistake or stroke of good luck.

There is one other place I remember lighting taking my breath away.

At my brother in laws house, his front lights are perfect, the extension of the light, its soft dissipation, the fittings scale and shape complementing the facade instead of appearing stuck on and abrupt. It’s not surprising though – He is an exceptional Electrician – and as I continue in practice I will ever seek out his intuitive and skilled understanding of light, shadow and fixtures.

Know your limits. Respect others. Never be afraid to ask.

The work will always be better, richer, more dynamic, better made and more valuable for it.

 

The pictures:

Frank Lloyd Wright – Fallingwater House – http://www.fallingwater.org/

falling_water_5_by_twi924-d2xq9wq2 A.       download  B.

 

A. Image courtesy of http://www.decordraw.net/falling-water-home-location/25/thread-fallingwater-frank-lloyd-wright/

B. Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallingwater

+

Alvar Aalto – Villa Mairea – http://www.alvaraalto.fi/net/villa_mairea/en/1.htm

60_109739-copy C.  villa mairea 1 D.

C. & D. Images courtesy of http://www.alvaraalto.fi/net/villa_mairea/en/54.htm

villa1E.

E. Image courtesy of http://luhcr.blogspot.com.br/

 

 

 

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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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