In Search of the Seed: On Designing

Jan 1 2001 • Posted in Uncategorized

The adventure of courting a building is a search for the unique seed of a particular design project, the essence or feel of the building. This beginning of the design grows out of a great deal of information: site, weather, legal and other restrictions, client, history of the site, material, and my own feeling that a certain building is there waiting to be born. The building starts as an impression in the back of the mind about shadow, shapes, walls and typical openings. Gradually, through patient steps, first with very small sketches, then a small-scale clay model, enlarging the scale and becoming familiar with the inside and outside of the building: a lot of watching and listening, the building takes form. The material used for making the model predetermines a lot of the design.

Once the particular language of the building is known, the rhythm, mass, and light, then all the related parts such as doors, roof treatment and the details fall into place.

I try, also, even when under tight restrictions of budget or limitations, to keep every stage of design flexible and look at the limitations as possible new approaches to where the building wants to go. These solutions may become the best part of the project. I hope for the building to age comfortably and to give a continued sense of surprise to the people that use it and that the process of designing and construction will be positive.

I hope I can, as a young boy visiting our house once said, “Build houses that trees aren’t embarrassed to stand next to.”

“It is a very exciting prospect, and humbling to be given the task of finding a special place, in a specific place, looking for a new music to sing at this time in history.”

“Why is education aimed so much to correct defects in the student and not to exposing and developing his talents? After all, our defects are a good part of our uniqueness, at least as important as our assets.”

James T. Hubbell


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