You mention “the green movement.” Do you see a strong relationship between landscape and design?
The word “sustainable” implies usefulness over a long period of time. When the green movement grabbed hold there was little talk of longevity, when in fact that is the greatest pay-off. The current market-driven economy builds a depreciating asset with a life span of 20-25 years, at which point it becomes too costly to maintain and cheaper to build anew. The dark side of this is the wasteful use of materials, while cheap buildings continue to clutter our landscape. What will the Gallatin Valley look like in 200 years?
The green movement has been with us for many years: one need only look to the pueblo dwellings of the southwest and the efficient center chimney cape to see that we have long struggled with energy concerns. However, green energy applications are being codified and measured with too little benefit, because they are laden with paper work and costs that the average citizen cannot afford. To incentivize energy conservation, it needs to be made accessible.
So, is this simply a result of a fiercely market-driven economy, or due more to the advent of technology and reliance on CAD (computer-aided design) and excessive specialization? Is architecture dying as an art form?
Like medicine and law, architecture has become overburdened with licensing requirements, insurance regulations, and international building codes, as well as local ordinances. Changing the color of your front door can be a crime in some developments. Creativity suffers in the face of unnecessary regulation, and the artist/architect has been moved to the back of the bus. I hope that the digital age will spawn another movement and we might see the arts merge again to rebuild our deteriorating environment.
You cite The Architecture of Happiness as an influence on your work and your perception of architecture. Could you elaborate?
There are a few timeless architectural books such as Design with Nature by Ian McHarg, Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard and Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi. I also like Alain d’Botton’s, The Architecture of Happiness, because it takes a humorous look at architecture, which is generally far too self possessed and serious. It is also an insightful critique of why architecture is important to us. I agree with d’Botton’s theory that the architect’s task is to inspire a joyful environment. Certain resonant forms, textures, planning ideas resonate with us as time tested and pleasing forms of shelter; they are born out of the mind of the generalist, who understands art, the natural world, structure, color, ergonomics, etc. The generalist begins with what is possible, absorbing and translating the vision into a sustainable form of art.
Who are the great generalists and what makes them so?
Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Luis Barragan, Renzo Piano, Adolf Loos, Renne’ Mackintosh, the Greene Brothers and Bernard Maybeck.
Architecture should be the blending of art and the science of construction. A true generalist admits the critical tension between the art of architecture and the driving commercial forces making architecture, but prefers to celebrate the art of architecture. The simplicity of Tadao Ando’s Chapel in Japan and its stark, unadorned form is the where the poetry lies. Another example, Gehry’s Art Center in Bilbao, Spain, is a series of curious waves of polished metal, contrasted with the ancient city’s original architecture. Both buildings can inspire profound introspection.