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genius loci

robie1.jpg A building is never just a building. Like onions, cakes, and you and me, the years give them layers, rarely tangible, but somehow subtly palpable. More than any other art form, architecture is changed by every interaction it has with a human. This force of human-ness upon architecture can be compared to the force of the sea upon Andy Goldsworthy’s wooden vortex, as he sent it out to sea with the belief that it would “make it into something far greater than (he) could have ever imagined?. It has a similar level of intent, too: it’s rather random. As much as an architect tries to shape the activities and ways of “being? his building will bring about, he can never imagine with any degree of accuracy what will transpire beneath the building’s passive gaze. The sense of quiet reverence I feel in any place of worship is worth more than just aesthetic appreciation, nor is it out of metaphysical adulation. It’s a function of all the people that have diligently conspired to release the most powerful of human emotion in that space year after year. And a very human passion this is, as we are the only species with such a feverish impulse to create arrestingly powerful religious monuments. Of course, this phenomenon isn’t by any means unique to churches. Every so often a house makes me stop in my path and fills me with an insatiable desire to go inside and sit in an empty room with bare walls, and try to somehow ascertain answers to questions like, what kind of people have lived here? What happened here? Generally, the older the structure, the more of this human-ness has built up, like so much sparkling dust clinging to the building, only visible to the highly perceptive. After such a stuffy and overdrawn introduction, what I’m trying to get at is this: I’m partial to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. It’s like a thread of influence woven into my life long ago. It was across the street from my first american elementary school, and down the street from our far less lavish apartment, back when we were all young. It stands as a landmark of the beginning of my fascination with the meaning of spaces. Its very silhouette feels like home. The meaning of this building to me goes beyond the brilliance of FLW’s design. It’s a product of his vision frozen in brick and wood interacting with the psyche of everyone that comes in contact with it. A building isn’t finished when construction ends; rather, that’s the end of the beginning and the start of a new, indefinite process.robie 2.jpg

Comments

Very insightful. I am a good fan of this blog. It makes you feel snarter just by reading it.