November 24, 2014

This is the beginning of a conversation about what the concept of home means from an architectural perspective. All ideas, questions and musings are welcome; and I’ll provide my thoughts and insights borrowed from the profession to get things started. This is not primarily about styles or even building images, which we are all inundated with. Rather, I’d like to explore what aspects of enclosed space contribute to what we yearn for when we think of home. Whether psychological (emotionally based) or driven by practical needs, we will be talking about those attributes of shelter that contribute (or not) to our evolution as individuals.

Certainly homey, sentimental images (Thomas Kincaid Inc.) come easily to mind, and they are not necessarily to be discounted. But our quest is more existential, not susceptible to Hallmark slogans or; to another extreme, very “testable” from a research perspective. But through conversation, I believe we can come closer to understanding what mostly works for most people most of the time. (Apologies to Abe Lincoln).

A professor I had at Berkeley, Christopher Alexander (with graduates assisting), put together a most ambitious catalog, of city planning and architectural “truths”, some largely based on conjecture, to guide designers at all levels of the built environment down to the window frames on a house. It’s called the “Pattern Language” and in its own way is as audacious as Vitruvius and worth the read. Various architects (Sarah Suzanka comes to mind for her excellent examples), and others collaborating with social scientists, have built more elaborate theoretical structures to tell us what makes us happy or not with our buildings. Even Tom Wolff dabbled in the subject with his title “From Bauhaus to Our House”.

What to make of it all? Well, I’m past the point in my practice where I’m terribly interested in intellectual jousting. This blog seeks on the ground answers (or at least hypothesis), about how to make the above ground product even better. I know a great deal about designing homes and have had creative success meeting homeowners’ needs, especially those I’ve come to know well; since listening to them always leads to the best solutions. But I would like to explore how to ask better questions to guide my clients in their own journey home.

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