This, a dusted-off and updated version of my first ever blog post, was inspired by a quote from Charles Eames. Charles was a stand out mid-century designer who, in close collaboration with his wife Ray, changed the face of American culture. He was credited with stating that “eventually everything connects“. This is something that the Eames’ firmly believed and practiced. He was trained as an architect and industrial designer, she as an artist and designer, and both as furniture makers and film producers.
“Eventually everything connects…” Even as an architect, it has taken me many years to become enlightened to this truth. Through this blog we will further explore architecture and its connection…..to virtually everything.
Most people subscribe to a common definition of architecture, such as the result one gets when googling “definition of architecture”.
ar·chi·tec·ture/ˈärkiˌtekCHər/ – noun: The art or practice of designing and constructing buildings.
I would suggest that most of what pervades our physical environment is derived from the “practice of designing and constructing buildings”. We’ve become quite comfortable with concept. Architecture is the shell, what’s inside is interior design, and what’s outside is landscape architecture. By logical extension, the architect’s role is to deal with the shell, the interior designer’s role is to deal with whatever is inside and the landscape architect’s role is to deal with whatever is outside. With this distinction between the roles, the outcome is usually less than desirable, as exeplified by the buildings lining our thoroughfares.
Conversely, a regrettably small portion of what permeates our physical environment results from the “art of designing and constructing buildings”. This is where we usually find truly inspiring works of architecture. In recent years I began to notice that these inspiring works of architecture were often considered successful works of interior design and of landscape architecture as well. In the creation of these works, the architects were either unaware of the distinctions between these design disciplines or simply chose to ignore them. These works are not about distinctions, they are about connections. Consider the example of Richard Neutra’s Kaufman Desert House, perhaps best exemplified by Julius Shulman’s iconic black and white photograph.
The stepping of horizontal ground planes mimic the surrounding ground planes. The roof planes hover above the landscape on sheets of glass, or are supported by native stone which growing out of the site. The strong horizontal composition is accentuated by the verticality of natural plants and man-made architectural elements such as columns, doors and sunscreens. The floors seem to extend beyond the confines of the walls and transform to lush sod.
The observer can appreciate the subtle transitions from the interior to the exterior. Where one ends and the other begins is difficult to discern. Natural materials from the exterior are pulled inside and man-made materials from the interior extend outside. The furniture (much of it by Eames) is simple, planar, and warm. Views to the surrounding environment are deliberately considered and framed.
What can we take away from this example? I am convinced that this work is so satisfying because the architect takes advantage of a myriad of architectural connections, not limiting his role to the design of the shell. In doing so, he creates a work that is satisfying on a variety of levels.
This series of blog posts will explore the connection between architecture and the environment, the garden, the neighborhood, interior design, furniture design, product design, fashion, art, sociology, psychology, and more.
My next post will look at the connection between architecture and habitats. Join me for Nesting and Perching.