|The importance of design in architecture|
|To design harmoniously is a natural ability. There may be a few people who really cannot design, and there are some who can become great masters. Like speech, design requires great skill; and we are meant to be very good at it.
Design is play. The geometric elements of a building are the material the designer plays with. Design is intuitive. But intuition follows natural laws. To design intuitively is not to lose control but to guide unconsciously. It is safe to turn the design process over to intuition. In a way it is unsafe not to, for without intuition the result is anomie, therelessness. Intuition is the practical way to design patterns, and what we call intellect is the practical way to write specifications. Intuition is innate judgment.
Intuition is not raw feeling. When you turn design over to intuition, you imbue the design with a system of proportions. Proportion, how one shape relates to another, is at the centre of the old way of seeing. Mastery of proportion demonstrates a kind of judgment that goes far beyond what your "practicalĒ side knows how to do. In a sense, using intuition is far more practical than any other method of design. Intellect calculates effect, intuition organizes shapes. Effect has its place; function has its place; keeping the rain out has its place. But we are too good at keeping the rain out; it is almost the only thing we do. The goal of design is not to find the correct proportions; the goal is to express life. It is not necessary, it can be counterproductive, to try to be lively, interesting, mysterious. To make a building that comes alive, it is, above all, necessary to play among the patterns.
Intuition makes contact with nature, without sentimentality or understanding, without praise or worry. Keep it light! says intellect. But it isn't always light. Sometimes it's dark. Sometimes itís heavy. Keep it all, says intuition.
It is a function of buildings to unite the visionary and the practical. To be visionary doesn't mean to fly after the nearest whim. For the designer, "vision" is a sense of how it will be to be there: what is this place?
lf you donít have a vision, if you stay down too close to earth all the time, then you canít see where you are - We all carry the image of the earth seen from space. We all have seen where we are, and it is our job to come to terms with it. When we get our heads up in the clouds, following our intuition, we can create the sense of reality. That seems paradoxical, but only because we are unaccustomed to respecting intuition. That is where we get the power to create places that are worthy of the place we really are in.
But most of the time, the designer's feet belong on the ground. Novelty, expressionism, bizarrerie can be quite wonderful, but it is possible to design buildings that look like buildings, that express how they are used and how the materials are put together and that at the same time embody the inner vision. Vision doesn't have to be sweeping. The biggest mistake designers make in our time is to think that design is outside everyday, normal life. Even greatness is not outside our daily life.
In America we donít encourage vision. We have lists of things we want, things we expect, things we donít want; and we have plans for how to get or get rid of them. We have methodologies for creating the sense of home, the sense of community. But the harder we try, the less we hear the old laughter.
The age that is passing was an era of problems and solutions; the sense of place was one problem to be solved. Intuition was outside the equation. It will be easy to reintegrate intuition into our daily lives, and so recapture the old way of seeing. We are no longer distracted from our sense of loss by a belief in inevitable progress. Now that we have built the world the nineteenth century imagined, we notice the pain of what is missing. It may be that the hardest part has been waking up to a world we have made so cold, so dangerous.
A great building can give us the same exhilaration we experience in a natural landscape. We expect that of great buildings; but we tend to forget that a townscape of ordinary buildings, embodying the same principles, can also exhilarate us - exhilarate, and make us feel we belong.
In a townscape of disharmonious buildings, such as is common today, we feel no mystery, no promise. We are not intrigued; there is nothing to explore. When we walk among our buildings, we give our attention to signs and symbols, comfort and utility. The average street, the daily landscape, becomes more and more bleak or foolish or menacing.
When we visit the old towns, when we go into an ancient cathedral, when we see a masterpiece by a twentieth-century architect, we notice something most of our buildings lack. As we look at these places we know something is absent from the everyday buildings of our time the suburban house, the office building, the mall. And we accept this lack. We may complain about it, but in the end, we expect our buildings to have that spark we see in the buildings of the past.