“A Way of Looking at Things”

August 25, 2010

I recently, in one sitting, read the whole of Peter Zumthor’s book Thinking Architecture. I was reading in the quiet of the morning, in the living room, surrounded by bicycles and a soft, low light with the hum of the refrigerator a few rooms away to keep me company. Without music and only the steady hum of traffic outside the window, I was put into a contemplative state thinking about living and really experiencing good places, spaces.

From this reading, there forms within me the desire to capture the light and feeling of a place – and this house -which I’ve had mixed feelings and emotions within – there is some sense of it which just feels good. It’s that sense you cannot put a definition on.

Through his readings, Zumthor inspires me to BUILD things – to manifest them in this real world – off the paper, out of 2D, so that we may be able to explore a creation in all of its unspoken, subconscious forms.

Through his readings, too, I am filled with a driving sense to capture these living moments of the everyday – the lighting, the quiet, and how things are placed, just because its the course of life. (So, indeed, I got up and started capturing some of these moments with my new/old SLR.)

I also got this overwhelming desire to be in a quiet place, away from cars and people and noise to be surrounded by deep, quiet, forest, tall and confident, peaceful woods. There was a stirring in my heart, as if I needed to run there, but, sadly, I didnt know where to go! I need to find that place here in Charlotte. Nonetheless it was good to feel this pull.

Below I’ll interweave some of my favorite excerpts from the book.

My view of the room, the light, the quiet

“Since our feelings and understanding are rooted in the past, our sensuous connections with a building must respect the process of remembering.” (p18)

“In architecture there are two possibilities of spatial composition: the closed architecture body that isolates space within itself and the open body that embraces an area of space that is connected with the endless continuum.” (p22)

“I carefully observe the concrete appearance of the world, and in my buildings I try to enhance what seems to be valuable, to correct what is disturbing, and to create anew what we feel is missing.” (p24)

“A good building must be capable of absorbing the traces of human life and thus of taking on a specific richness.” (p24)

Through the french doors

“Why do we have so little confidence in the basic things architecture is made from? Material, structure, construction, bearing, being borne, earth and sky, and confidence in spaces that are really allowed to be spaces – spaces whose walls and constituent materials, concavity, emptiness, light, art, odor, receptivity, and resonance are handled with respect and care?” (p33)

When a building just seems to fit a site “it seems to be a part of the essence of its place, and at the same time it speaks of the world as a whole.” (p42)

I like the sequence of thresholds and the rhythm...

“The strength of a good design lies in ourselves and in our ability to perceive the world with both emotion and reason. A good architectural design is sensuous. A good architectural design is intelligent.” (p65)

“The intensity of a brief experience, the feeling of being utterly sustpended in time, beyond past and future – this belongs to many, perhaps even to all sensations of beauty. ..The flow of time has been halted, experience crystallized into an image whose beauty seems to indicate depth. While the feeling lasts, I have an inkling of the essence of things, of their most universal properties. I now suspect that these lie beyond any categories of thought.” (p72)

Morning breakfast with the book, I love the light.

“Beauty…is at its most intense when it is born of absence. I find something missing, a compelling expression, an empathy, which instantly affects me when I experience beauty…Longing. The experience of beauty makes me aware of absence. What I experience, what touches me, entails both joy and pain. Painful is the experience of absence and pure bliss the experience of a beautiful form that has been ignited by the feeling of absence.” (p80)

Postcards mark the entrance to my space, they add a vibrance.

“Architecture is the art of space and it is the art of time as well – between order and freedom, between follwoing a path and discovering a path of our own, wandering, strolling, being seduced.

I give thought to careful and conscious staging of tension between inside and outside, public and intimate, and to thresholds, transitions, and borders.” (p86)

**This is one of the things I like most about the house – the thresholds and rhythm of moving about the rooms. I dont know why, perhaps its the movement that I continually seek.

I like it's simplicity. It reminds me of a gallery space.

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4 Responses to ““A Way of Looking at Things””

  1. jenny goodwine Says:

    i really liked this post, keihly. the photos are gorgeous – aka your house. it’s such a peaceful and calm looking space… so nicely decorated, too. and i appreciated the excerpts… it’s such an artistic and sensitive take on architecture, it seems. hope you’re doing well, keihly! and that you find that peaceful forest-like space.

  2. Kenton Says:

    I also really enjoyed this post. Thank you for not only taking us on a journey through this author’s work, but through your interpretation of it, in text and photograph.

  3. Clark Says:

    I love the website and your posts! Its a bummer not to be able to run into you around the COD these days. Keep up the interesting work, I am always impressed!

  4. keihly Says:

    I want to post a few comments from a friend:

    i will take on a more critical view on Peter Z. – Talk about being vague! pg.18 – “sensuous connections” pg.22 “endless continuum” ….I will stop there. My opinion is that he is more of the same – self-indulgent personal “artistic” narratives on design and aesthetics.

    Do you remember that Radiolab podcast on “WORDS” & “STOCHASTICITY” – all we are according to some psychologist’s is our personal internal narrative – this idea controls society – this is what makes people get up in the morning.

    The yogic perspective takes on the dissolution of the “I” – the quieting of the “personal narrative” in order to achieve clarity, peace, and true perspective. In the practice of yoga emotions and reason are artificial, figments of our personal narrative. The world just “is” and things flow through.

    architecture i feel can do more but fails to truly perceive and take ownership of, lets just say, 97.2% perhaps 99%, of the environments around us.

    just a perspective.

    LAM


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