When I was a lad in anthropology school I loved to study pre-Columbian Maya civilization, a civilization which at that time was known only through its monumental ceremonial structures. The impermanent dwellings and the story they would tell of everyday Mayan life had long since vanished, reclaimed by the Central American jungle. Although Mayan texts have since been deciphered, little is known of the relationship of the Mayan people to the ceremonial elite who inhabited the centers of power; the nature of the everyday lives of the average Mayan are still unknown. At one time it was hypothesized that the alienation of the common folk by the ceremonial and governmental elite was the cause of revolt, strife, chaos and cultural dissolution. We will never know if this was so, as the secret is likely rooted in the dwellings long lost to the jungle.
I believe that the fabric of life is made up of the small commonplace incidents and constructions that we all experience daily. I also view the built environment as a living organism; one that when healthy necessarily renews itself much as our bodies do.
These two beliefs are linked in the work that I do. Although residential work in general, and residential renovation and remodeling in particular, are held in no high regard by my profession, I view knitting up “the ravelled sleeve of care” as an essential act with profound implications. Residential work is the most basic level of a city’s renewal. Although the profession looks upon residential work as hardly significant, I believe that just the opposite is true. Not only are the everyday buildings and individual aspirations they house incredibly precious, I believe that because of this some of the most emblematic works of architecture of the past have been houses. Houses can easily be the physical embodiment of the individual’s aspirations, and as such can be sources of extraordinary richness. In the best cases these aspirations find a place in the larger issues of cultural self-image and the flowering of civilization.
I enjoy residential work for these reasons, but also for the immediacy of client contact and for the inevitable focus on intimate everyday issues. I strive for solutions that are calm, allowing and serene, rather than designs which constantly demand attention. I enjoy working with people to clarify a path of intention, and then taking them further down that path than they could have imagined was possible. Rather than transmitting an image of how we’d like to appear as a culture, houses usually begin with who we are as individuals. The successful house offers choices and invites habitation. A city of such buildings would speak to who we are as a people.
Amidst all of that, we also find it essential to have fun while we’re saving the world.