CHAPTER 12

I AM WRITING A BOOK THAT I DON'T WANT TO FINISH

ALONE IN THE COSMOS CLUB

I am sitting alone in the Lafayette Square Lounge of the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. The Cosmos Club is not a friendly place. It can be a lonely place where one can relax, unwind, and think. I am alone, sitting in the middle of it, thinking.


GOOD DESIGN


The popularity and success of architects is controlled almost exclusively, I find, by the architectural critics of the New York Times and Washington Post and the stories and illustrations that appear in the architectural magazines. The kind of work that is illustrated in the architectural press becomes fashionable and exerts an enormous influence not only on architectural students but also on their professors, and, sadly, with few exceptions on practicing architects themselves.

Students should think for themselves. Certainly, practicing architects should do so. They should be guided by proven design principles, honesty, simplicity, scale, and most of all, the functional efficiency of the plan in two and three dimensions. We often see designers who start with a preconceived shape and mass that is invariably translated into a model that impresses the layman client. Then the plan is made to fit without much care as to its functional efficiency. The model becomes a stage setting with a cardboard facade having no honest expression of what occurs within. Shapes and forms or parts of ancient buildings are borrowed from the past and used in strange ways and simply pasted on.

I have never liked to label architecture as modern, contemporary, or post-modern. It should be simply good design based on sound principles, interpreted, and presented in the designer's own way for a specific project. Each design will be different because of the myriad of special forces that exert an influence on the direction of a given design, such as site, program, budget, climate, availability and accessibility of materials, and the owner.

The influence of the owner on a building cannot be overstated.

 

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