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Building Beauty

September 13, 2017

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We all know what we love. We feel it.

Usually, humans try to understand their feelings, not create them.

“Overthinking”is a great term that describes the “ought” in all of us. I should like opera – I love music, and one son is completely devoted to it, I have tried, but alas, I just find it tediously overblown. For me.

In architecture, kids come to school knowing that they want to make beauty, but over time they begin to know they should be able to define, render and defend beauty: not just feel it. You could say that one of the central purposes of all education is to separate us from our feelings so that we can understand. In school, the motivations and mechanisms are limited to the teachers’ comfort zone: and that is mostly not based in building. If you give building to teaching with words, drawings, models, clicking the keyboard you disengage that act of creating from what you should be doing in architecture: building beauty.

Traditionally in school you are feeding your mind, in the bubble of your brain you are the captain of your thoughts – but you are crippled in your creations by the media, the method as defined by your teachers.

I hate chemistry, but school forced me to deal with it, despite my hate. And I loved architecture and, not surprisingly in school grew to defend what I loved. I did not defend pretense, or Canon, or any theory of aesthetics – I grew to know that fit, and surprise and harmonics weave with movement, use, weather, materials – it was not an easy sell for some professors who built precious little, but taught full time for decades.

Now I have built full time for decades, dealt with over 1,000 sites, clients, scenarios. It’s time to share that, and it’s time the rest of the world in the tightly controlled place of teaching architectural design.

In the fine arts studio world, history is often something that is just a contrast to innovation, not a necessary allusion because we are in our time, on our terms. Size is not important as is scale, as in school we build almost nothing. Materials are texture, contrast, tone, lustre – none have the quality in school you learn by using them – soft, crisp, moving, inert.

Why can’t school be more like the rest of the lives? Why can’t we use what is learned to learn? In music, playing or singing is the best way to compose. In sports unending physical acts in practice allow for games to happen. How often do athletes spend all their time on the caulk board and then go out to play? If they did what would happen.

Some people, and soon me, are confronting students of architecture with the challenge to do what they come to school to learn how to do as a way to become what they want by doing what they value: in architecture that means building beauty: I am engaging in working with a crew of teachers, architects, theorists to be a cog in the teaching of architecture because I have spent 40 years building over 700 things, then taking the time to write millions of words about it.

It’s in Naples, Italy: it is tiny and starts in a month: Could you read this piece? http://commonedge.org/christopher-alexanders-new-architecture-program-offers-an-alternative-to-style-and-orthodoxy/

Here’s my take on this new program, but more the professional devotion of my life: Building Beauty. Its not transactional, its not intellectually constructed – my life has and is steeped in the full choreography of ideas, art, things, humans, climate, gravity, and yes: beauty. I hope you can see why this is worth my time (and yours reading this) http://www.buildingbeauty.net/bb-community

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2017 3:22 am

    Thanks for this, Duo. Glad to have you with us.

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