Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making Meaningful Places and Spaces

As an architect and shaper of place and space I grapple with the dilemma of how and why to integrate nature into the buildings I'm involved with and how to make them meaningful for those who use them. Designing buildings and places involve a conversation of sorts between a building site, the people who use it and required functions to fulfill the building and site program. Couple these layers of design with the needs for a building enclosure, required equipment, various building systems, furniture and finishes and you have a very complex conversation indeed which is why I like architecture so much. It's not simple, but it is extremely interesting.

With all of this inherent complexity, I see design framed within the beguiling simplicity of nature and behavior. I say this because, architecture when reduced to its essential, provides shelter from the elements and a setting for human interaction. Meaningful places and spaces are those which rise above mere perfunctory performance and speak to something extra. You know these buildings and places. They are the ones you and others cherish. They are the special places forming the rich texture of your memories and life. The house or dwelling you grew up in. The library you visited when you were a kid. The places of worship or places of meaning you experienced over the course of your life. Sometimes you had this feeling outdoors, perhaps some special hike or time spent along a stream looking a water curling around rocks.

Architecture when it's really powerful and successful, engages your body and its senses similar in a way when experiencing a great work of art or sculpture. You kind of get lost in a reverie of sorts. It's kind of hard to explain. But it is powerful. I think architecture and place-making are at there very best when they fully and completely involve nature and create compelling and memorable spaces for interaction. The other enriching aspect is all of the wonderful people you meet and the friendships you make along the way.

Doing just that is a life long process of discovery and learning.

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