Walls and Trees

Oct 15 1970 • Posted in Uncategorized

The marvel of being alive, of being aware of the planet on which we stand, is a GREAT GIFT. Add to this marvel, our knowledge that man is related by common matter, by evolution, and by existence to the stars, to the sea, to a leaf, and to a bird in flight. Then to think that as humans and artists we may add to this world of beauty and wonder is a gift, which makes us indeed fortunate.

I often wonder at the endless variation in nature! She is never content with duplications but with a bursting joy seems to create marvels of use, of form, of color and texture, sometimes even to the extent that her practicality could be questioned. Then, I think of modern man and his desire for security and control. He is so willing to harness life to the yoke of reason, and to place beauty, mystery and meaning in the hands of science and the computer.

Probably the great dilemma of our age is that of meaning. Seemingly, the old values are not enough. We appear unwilling to accept life as sufficient to give meaning to existence. This is a question that you will have to answer, first for yourselves, then in your work, then perhaps for others.

If I were to ask nature for one clue that might help, say the question of means and ends, she would say they are inseparable. Death is not the meaning of life. The oak tree is not the meaning of the acorn. There can never be a utopia.

In the life of a tree, there is no point of perfect fulfillment. It is the process of life and change that makes each point in its existence meaningful. If you want a beautiful life or a beautiful building, then you must make the moments beautiful. The process must be inseparable to the end.

The moments in a building’s life: conception, designing, construction, and the living, should each be aesthetic and rewarding. A building or a work of art should never be thought of as something on a pedestal, something precious. If it is not a part of the process of life, it is only a curiosity. The first tools we have to work with are our hands, our heads and our hearts.

Creation is never just an explanation of existence. It is part of existence, and therefore, an enlargement of its mystery.

I wish that we could live in homes as marvelous and beautiful as that of the snail and that we could build cities as endlessly rewarding as a forest.

If you want to create beauty, you need not understand it. To find it you must seek it. Great architecture, as with music or life, cannot be known or understood through reason or books. It must be needed and loved. Only then will it give back meaning.

James T. Hubbell
Lecture to Architectural Students,
San Luis Obispo
October 15, 1965



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