The work shown in this volume can be seen as products of my long search for the specific space. whether it be a room. a building. a square. or a city. The results of the search never match that which has been imagined. This is not to say that the imagination is imprecise; rather that one's mind is obsessed with recurring preferences. equations. visions. the unknown. The reality never matches the imagined. Complex emotional responses play on directions of thought (the essence of the project). This dilutes the ultimate goal of thought and imagination.
In this sense all mistakes. failures. confusions are completely the architect's own. and never caused by the owner. or even by outside rules.
In my case. these preferences (or merely prejudices). both those that are understood and those that are irrational and emotional. remain remarkably intact over the years and give an underlying direction. cohesion and unity to the body of work. Indeed. these inner forces are recurrent and thematic. Each architect. each artist has these built-in. inexplicable preferences to a greater or lesser degree. A
visionary predilection for certain combinations of form. rhythm. color. light. space and texture. if finally related to the great impulses of an age. express that age with thrilling accuracy. Every age exhibits a tendency. a preference for certain forms and certain orders of form. For instance. the architectural renaissance in western Europe started with every field rethinking and reshaping its known world. Individual preferences derived from past experience were developed. enlarged. adopted and codified. and finally the Renaissance became a movement, a learnable system (based on a group's earlier, shared interpretation) producing a common architectural language.
An academy was formed. It became the arbiter of taste. only to be ultimately destroyed by other sets of preferences. which might earlier have been thought barbaric. This is a natural process. Creativity is the natural enemy of accepted taste. Underlying laws do not change with changing historical periods. They are actually transmitted to the next culture by the very process of revolution. for these rules are universal and bind one age with another. making a great continuum. of which each artist is a part.
Of course it is only when specific preferences are directed to form answers to problems posed by a society that these preferences have greater meaning and contribute to a culture. In this sense it is imperative that an architect direct his attention toward the immediate. pressing, real problems that a society poses. rather than indulge in personal whims or fantasy. Architects and. indeed. all artists are servants of society and media of cultural formation.
In this introduction I have tried chronologically to trace the relationships between my thinking and the specific projects and problems which I had the opportunity of undertaking. The actual buildings are accompanied by some theoretical projects (particularly those dealing with the use of modules and urban design) indicating that which should be built in the next twenty years. Working on two levels. the immediate and the near future. is the architect's responsibility.
These projects and buildings can be read as responses to specific and immediate problems. as well as perpetual statements on the nature of architecture. which remains. for me. a continuing. ever-integrating. altering. deepening enigma.
My first guest houses and residences, in Florida. followed the formal and structural principles of the International Style, which I had learned through Walter Gropius· method and teaching at Harvard. The principles included strict adherence to function. clarity and articulation of individual parts. and a preference for specific forms and tones developed by the International Stylists. Regular structural wood systems with infilling walls of wood or concrete block, subdividing all areas into rectangles in elevation and plan. fol lowing the dictum of "planes in space", and the elimination of all ornament marks these early works.
Whatever validity these early houses have today comes from their integrity -of structure and the methodological adherence to the dictums of the International Style. as adapted to Florida's climate. For all their structural integrity, these houses had insufficient psychological control and scope of natural and artificial light and space. and I soon began questioning the International Style. One critic summed it up by saying. "The experience of space was found wanting".
Of course. elementary notions of function were utilized in these houses. but this never seemed to be a true guiding rule for the creation of space as a psychological entity. since what is functional to one is not necessarily functional to another. For example. function of drainage would lead to every building being fundamentally a funnel. but this is obviously absurd. since functions of other parts would quickly intervene. There is no such thing as pure architectural function.
Structural clarity. seemingly so important at that time. was not. in fact. so clear. Confusion between columns and window mullions was most apparent. Obviously, block infilling walls were strong enough to support the entire building.
The clarity of the exposed wood beamed ceilings was much stronger, but the International Style's insistence on the simple. repetitive structure often prevented spatial explorations of a higher order. Mechanical systems were not truly integrated.
The complexity and contradictions of functions and systems led me to the conclusion that the central guiding or working principle should be human space.
The simple post and beam systems of these early houses quickly gave way to other structural systems. such as the steel and tension roof of the Cocoon house, the flat concrete slab of the Revere Copper and Brass Company's house, and the plywood vaults of the Ingram Hook house and the Sanderling Beach Cabana Club. As far as I know, plywood was used structurally for the first time in these projects.
It is. perhaps. noteworthy that the Cocoon house. with its apparently "sagging" cei ling due to the steel and tension catenary curves. proved to be psychologically,
spatially uncomforta.ble. It was at th is time that I rea lized that structural exhibition
must always serve the psychological demands of the space. no matter how
functionally justifiable. The roof. as a universal symbol of home. should not push
the occupant out. as it did in the Cocoon house. but should pull the space inward,
and even upwards at times.
The most successful of these early houses was. I believe. the Walker guest
house-not because it used a clear structure. but because the space was modulated
through the use of large. solid panels pivoted at the top. These panels acted
simultaneously as walls. ventilating elements. overhangs and hurricane shutters.
They transformed the space from an enclosed cave to an open screened porch
and, thus. began for me a long apd continuing search for ways to modify space
for results of feel ing. mood. mind and symbol. It was not until 1976 that I could
finally come to my definition of architecture:
Architecture is used space formed for psychological and symbolic reasons. The
space of the painter is. of necessity, fundamentally flat and illusionary, never to
be used. but to be understood as a product of abstract relationships. The space
of the sculptor is three- or four-d imensional. but has extremely limited use for
general human purposes. and basically does not deal with inhabitable void.
The space of the engineer is of ten used by and for humans. but engineering is
a science and. while it often has psychological meaning, symbolism and psyche
are not considered its prime determinants. E:ngineers. by definition. approach
space purely from the viewpoints of economics. quantitative relationships and
efficiency. The psychological content of engineered structures is a by-product
of these functions.
Architectural space overrides all its integrating elements arrd concepts by
consciously forming enclosured voids to accommodate human beings in the
totality of their psychic and physica l life and their various pursuits and intentions.
The first house in which I really explored space. light and structu re in their unified
and symbolic rela tionships was the Milam .house in Jacksonvi lle. Florida. It is
noteworthy that the structure is irregular and is used to form and serve the space.
the exact reverse of the method used in the earlier houses. Loadtiearing walls and
piers of exppsed concrete block inside and out. tied together by precast slabs.
form a three-dimensional brise-soleil. The walls align precisely with the boundary