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Fixing More Than Forming: Reality

March 3, 2015

We fix more things than we make.

Having helped make things for about 40 years as an architect, the vast majority of projects fix rather than form.

Given there are 70 million existing homes and we build maybe 1% of those each year, the odds favor repair over invention.

This is true for the repairmen and formers ourselves.

So much of who we are is baked in the cake of our genetic predilections and capacities that nature kicks nurture’s best hopes to the curb most days. I will never play in the NFL.

Parents know this (especially after the college search) but humans in general still venerate the New over the Renewed – we love greater control, so we laud it when our world grows at our own hand. In my hand is a device that did not exist 5 years ago, and I am using software that was just a thought 10 years ago.

But there are so many more repairs needed than invention can replace. I have a dozen new homes being created in my office and head, but 4 dozen renovations to effect.

The problem is that for any design you cannot build the site. Most sites have something on them, and all sites, all of them are somewhere, not everywhere or a place that has no abiding, real, undeniable characteristics.

When architects venerate sculpture that happens to be used as a building they are no different than the scientist who venerates a theory that cannot be proven. The difference is the scientist (should) know that. The architect believes that she or he has defied the rest of the universe and made a singularity.

None of us can be the singularity we wish for. The existing sites of our genome, childhood, accidents, failures and triumphs nurture a product that cannot be perfected.

Each of us is a bent wheel, dented by reality colliding with the preferred arc of our hopes and expectations. Some dented wheels can go faster and straighter than others, but many can barely turn. As the song says when you bend it you can’t, try as we might, mend it.

So I spend my life mostly mending homes, always adapting to sites. But in Lent I see the remodeled me and the shaky ground I am built on more clearly.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Larry Roadman permalink
    March 3, 2015 12:49 pm

    Thanks, Duo!

    Larry in Lent

  2. SteveMouzon permalink
    March 3, 2015 8:05 pm

    Duo, you always have good stuff, but this is more poetic than most. Ben Bolgar with the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community said a couple years ago that “the past couple decades have been about building madly around the world. Maybe the age that is now dawning is more about healing instead.” I think you and Ben are both right.


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