Shadows and Space: On Finding a Place

Jan 1 1999 • Posted in Uncategorized

Before starting, I try to immerse myself in the nature of the particular place. My designs begin as impressions of shadows, shapes, walls, and openings. Gradually, step by step, a house, a chapel, school or park takes form. It is very much a case of listening to what the building wants to be and trusting my own feelings.
Shadows & Space drawing by James HubbellFirst, I make a number of small sketches, then a small-scale model, often of clay. Afterwards, I enlarge the scale and become familiar with the inside and outside. In the process an appropriate vocabulary and language for the project is found. When this grammar – the rhythm, light and mass – is established, then the related parts, doors, roof treatment, and details fall into place.

I must rely on my sensing and interpreting how people will respond to the place, not only now, but also in fifty years, and how they will feel when they walk by, enter or live in the houses, parks or schools. This is part of a premonitory sense that gives birth to new forms, new spaces, and ways of using light and materials. Often the restraints of the building site, budget, and other limitations becomes the door to the direction the building must go.

I believe that a building should grow as naturally as a tree. Not only has the client, climate, weather, budget, and materials influenced the design, but also the building should continue to evolve as it is being lived in. And like a tree, should change gracefully with time.

Life is not so much to be known in the world of the mind, but to be lived in the music and dance of the Gods, then as builders our greatest gift is to try to help new forms and buildings be born and to help these buildings dance within our lives.

James T. Hubbell
January, 1999



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