What Is Under the Table...
Seeing the World As a System
best qualification of a prophet
is to have a good memory
1633 - 1695
to California Inventing a machine -
a process. Boy Scouts - for a short while
Grandfather, as I have said elsewhere [link: tom richards - wwII],
could fix anything. When we returned to the
States, my Mother and I spent some months with
him at a golf driving range he was running
on the edge of the old Mills Estate in San
were thousands and thousands of golf balls
to be picked up every day, cleaned, painted
with appropriate stripes (according to their
age and use) and put back for resale to an
endless line of customers. Grandfather and
I decided that we should see how much of this
entire process we could automate. What resulted
was a number of weird contraptions
(ultimately brought together into one system)
that actually worked.
the end we had a device that, on one end, dirty
golf balls could be dropped into a hopper,
cleaned sorted, repainted with appropriate
color stripe and batched into small buckets
(125 balls per) for reuse. This entire operation
required only a few interventions on the part
of the inventor-operators. It took up the entire
shed and threatened to grow into the living
room except for a Grandmother (who having been
around thing kind of thing for a generation)
defended that space like it was the Holy Grail.
was a marvelous machine!
accomplished this feat of modern mechanical
art with mostly parts found around the shop
and junk yard. This was an important lesson.
Master Sergeants in WWII were famous for their
procurement talents which the unenlightened
called stealing. Whatever, the message was
that there was always something that
could be made to work. We also got the job
done fast even given the occasional diversions
when youthful ignorance proved too much for
example was the valves. When the golf balls
were painted they had to be placed in a device
that would turn them at the appropriate speed
(arrived at by experiment) as a brush with
the correct amount of paint (also arrived at
by experiment) was lowered to the correct spot
(arrived at by...). All this, the ball rolling
into place, the motor turning, the valves gripping
and the painted result dropping onto a drying
tray (made of nails sticking up so the paint
was not smeared) was accomplished by the triumphant
designers activating only one foot peddle.
I thought the paint tray (which automatically
turned over, when the correct number of balls
had dried, was a notably eloquent hack.
do this, the balls were held by two spring
loaded valves whose curve on the bottom magically
matched the circumference of the balls. I was
impressed with the valves and their machining
and wondered how someone had made such a thing
just to hold golf balls. This led to us tearing
down and rebuilding an old engine so that I
could learn what a value was really for.
Years later, I found myself on a construction
job with a messed up engine on a remote site
and was able to remember-rethink my way though
the procedure well enough to get the equipment
running again. Grandfather, it seemed, had
more than golf balls on his mind.
was an enlightening experience for me to work
with a master of the mechanical art even though
the purpose of the whole thing was more to
keep us occupied then any commercial value.
I did know this at the time. My Grandfather
had me convinced that if we did not complete
the project the world would be flooded with
a avalanche of unwashed and unpainted golf
balls. Perhaps, he believed this also. What
I had been taught, without even knowing I was
being taught, was the entire process of
was never this good. Too bad.
drove the rest of the family crazy. Also, too
was during this period that I started forming
my first interests in architecture. I wrote
a report for school that raised the issue of
the utility/art dichotomy - an issue that I
was not to resolve [link: whay is architecture] until
a few years later. I remember cutting
out of a magazine a colored picture of a simple
little post and beam modern house much like
an Eichler home [link: usonian houses and eichler].
The post WWII Arts and Architecture movement
had begun. It stimulated me from the very beginning.
D.C. A loft of my own. I decide
to become an Architect The end of a
certain innocence of another kind.
Father was transferred to the Pentagon which
I found to be a wonderful place to play. We
bought a house in Falls Church, Virginia that
had a completely open attic. My Father laid
down a wood floor and left the rest to me.
This is where my practice of architecture began.
cases, drawing board and various other tools
soon were assembled into a very nice environment
- one of the best I was to have for years to
come. The space was huge and projects of all
kinds could be kept out while still
maintaining a neat space. To this day I like
to keep all my projects visual and accessible
to the impulse of work. My workspaces still
Alto - 1999
Head - 1999
spent hours in the space just sitting and thinking
- the only thing that drew me out was baseball.
One day my sanctum was invaded.
seems that my 13 year old cousin had gotten
in to boy trouble and was banned
to the wilds of Virginia for a year. Suddenly,
a cot appeared on the other side of my room
with my cousin in occupancy. Later a wall was
built and she was given half of my loft.
it seems that my cousin didnt have any
trouble with boys at all and that first night
I lost a certain innocence that you can only
lose once. It was a wonderful school year.
Years later my Mother asked me if they had
made a mistake with the arrangements
and I told her it depended on your perspective!
This experience actually made very girl-shy
and it was many, many years before sex became
a serious issue with me. I guess I had learned
enough to satisfy my curiosity and to understand
that this was something special and serious.
she left, baseball and architecture dominated
my life for a long time to come.
story actually has a sad ending. It seems that
my cousin never did get over her problem and
she was shortly banned from the family to the
life of an unwed-single-mother-on-her-own.
This led to an ever increasing downward spiral
too familiar in our society. I never saw her
after this happened and to the family she ceased
to exist. Given what I was to later learn of
and Aunts exploits as teenagers, I never
could figure out why this (over) reaction to
my cousins proclivities. Her younger
sister (my other cousin) grew up to be an absolute
prig - out of fear, I suppose. I never could
always felt that the family shame was in how
this was handled not in the misguided and uninformed
experiments of a young girl. I still feel this
way and mendacity has never been one of my
favorite human practices. This is not unrelated
to the issue of the table.
Susan and drawing. The National
doctors decided that perhaps I could return to
a somewhat normal life and I was allowed a few
carefully supervised hours a week of sports. Baseball
my real passion. At this
time, I also discovered basketball which has a completely
different kind of flow to it. I liked the continuous
movement of the sport and discovered that I had great
endurance. It was not until the 70s and I discovered
long distance running and that this was where my
real physical capability existed. I did get into
both a baseball and basketball leagues with doctors
and mother nervously hovering by. It took an out
and out rebellion on my part, six years later,
before they gave up telling me I had to rest -
this time I met Susan who became my first steady
girlfriend. We spent hours in her basement family room
playing “house.” It was a strictly platonic relationship
with a latent sense of sensuality - very pleasant.
This was my first experience that a boy and a girl
could actually like one another and be friends.
The games we played were, of course, a simulation
of life as a married couple and were elaborate. They
were informative and based on what we observed
of our parents who
were close friends. We were interested in seeing
if we could do it somewhat better and with less
conflict than the role models we were offered.
We talked a great deal about this. One day, this
part of my life changed. Looking back,
to get concerned and subtly manipulated the situation.
They may have been right, it is hard to tell from
here. It could be that they were challenged by
this brief exercise in domesticity.
relationships with my cousin and Susan taught me
two things. The
sex with my cousin was without guile or politics.
It was natural, fun, puppy-like. Nor, at my age,
was it overcharged with male hormines. My time
with Susan was an experience of sensual companionship.
false expectations, no conflicts - no demands.
The two combined made up
a rare experience - and set an expectation.
It was almost imposible to have two experiences
like this back to back in the 1950s. Nor now,
I expect, in the over-charged sexual environment
of todays media. I was never able, after this,
to see a girl or women
or control - or, to be jealous of.
totally intimidated me when it came to the “normal”
social rituals that were to follow.
was school and for awhile, Susan, and there was
baseball with basketball as a good second choice.
I did not do well in school having by this time
been in seven different ones and, with the exception
of three teachers, I found the process totally
boring. Also, I could not relate at all to “civilians.”
about in life was incomprehensible to me. The truth
is, it is still incomprehensible.
real life was in my attic loft with my drawing
and my father’s collage mechanical drafting books.
When I finally got into a formal classes in 1954,
I discovered that I had self taught myself through
several semesters of mechanical and architectural
drafting. This did not make me happy because I
by the educational system which I expected to
be able to teach me more than I could learn on
own. A nail - one of many - in the coffin of
my formal learning process.
hours alone were magic. My space was a refuge. I poured
over books, my Britannica, Mechanix Illustrated
and other technical magazines and the aerodynamics
materials my father brought back from the Pentagon.
I dreamed of a life as an inventor and designer
and of world very different than the one I lived
in. I still dream of that elusive world even as I work to create it.
was one circumstance in my relationship with my
father that further drove this joy of isolation.
My work became a way to avoid family interaction
and conflict. I will not deal with it here but
will address it when it came
to a head in 1953 and lead to a divorce between
enjoyed playing in the Pentagon which had many hallways
full of airplane and ship models as well as actual
cut away full size jet engines. And, of course there
was the entire Mall in DC with the museums - an
educational candy store for a curious mind. I spent
hours there. My favorite place of all was the National
To this day, it is the first environment I go to
when I return to Washington DC [link].
It is still “home” for me and the influence of this
on my work cannot be over stated [link].
The National Art Gallery
I took this picture February 2005
Boy Scout Merit Badge in Architecture Jolting
Joe. A teacher.
Angelio, Texas and Little league Baseball. Thinking
about the year 2000. Going to the Moon - a linear
exercise. Soccer and cowboy boots. An F-86
packs it in. The Bat Boy.
The trek to California - Palo Alto Military
of my first
office based on the Nichols Office
(no relation to Major Nichols) in Palo Alto
My first built house. Drafting class.
had long been a fan of C.S. Forester’s Hornblower
series. My mother found out that he lived in Berkeley
and arranged a meeting.
an Engine. The Fountainhead. Learning to be a Cowboy.
Building paths. Introduction to Bucky.
summer I worked on a ranch in the Trinity Alps
North West of Mount Shasta in California. I became
an apprentice cowboy. Early in my experience
I received a lesson on how youngsters are initiated
into the club. I was working with the Senior Wrangler
getting the horses ready for the day. He turned
to me and told me to go down to the meadow and
round up two horses who were known for their stubbornness.
I started walking toward my horse when he asked
me if I wanted to use his. An unprecedented question!
I eagerly said yes but should have noted the sly
grin on his face.
the senior Wrangler was a real cowboy
in the traditional meaning and his horse (I forget
the name) was a REAL horse. Very intimidating.
Large, muscular, full of energy and breathing fire.
This I knew from simple observation. What I was
about to learn was there is a difference between
concept and experience.
the sake of this retelling, lets call the horse
Lightning-bolt - this is a fair description. I
tightened his girth and swung into the saddle -
or started to. The second I swing my leg over old
Lightning shot off toward the gate. Out we went
with me holding on to the horn clinging desperately
trying to get my right foot over and into the stirrup.
I want to be clear that Lightning was not giving
me a hard time - he was just doing what he was
trained to do and being what he was.
dont know if you have ever ridden a quarter
horse in his prime. It is the difference (compared
to horse as commonly understood) between
a typical car-car and a barely street-legal full-out
sports car driven by a professional. The sensation
of acceleration and agility is about equal between
the two systems. Nothing prepares you for
this. In this case, Lightning was doing the driving.
And a professional he was.
corral, where I started this intrepid journey,
was in a stand of pine a couple hundred feet above
the meadow and about an eigth of a mile away. There
was a bumpy, narrow dirt road - barely adequate
for the trucks that brought in hay - that lead
to the meadow. Lightning-bolt charged down this
road like it was a level freeway. About half way
down, the trees cleared a bit and I could see the
two horses in question. They always hung out together
no doubt sharing ideas on how to make life miserable
for junior wranglers.
this moment in my short life - which I was now
convinced was about to end - I did not know that
horses could understand English - or read minds.
At any rate, Lightning seemed fully briefed on
the mission. As I glanced at the two culprits,
he suddenly left the road and proceeded down a
45 degree slope right at them with no diminishment
in the rate-over-ground. I am proud to say that
I did not mess my pants (barely) but the resulting
language was not becoming to a promising young
architect-to-be cum cowboy.
two, who apparently were expecting a day of rest,
demonstrated how fast a horse can run a calculation
when motivated. They instantly shot off in a direction
90 degrees to our vector heading at full run toward
the densest part of the woods. The other 50 or
so horses in the meadow didnt bother to move.
They seemed to knew who was on the list - and not.
What the two apparently did not know - I certainly
did not - was that a quarter horse can execute
a full 90 degree turn at full gallop. For the apprentice
rider this presented a small problem. I then learned
that the concept inertia, which I had
studied in school, and the realty of being the
experiment were miles apart. I left the saddle
heading in the direction, that a moment before,
the two horses were.
took no notice - apparently, the way this worked
was he had his job and I had mine. His job - in
his definition of it - was to round up the two
horses. Mine was to hold on if I could. Somehow
I did. We hit the woods at high velocity with me
half on and half off mostly hanging down a few
inches away from four big pounding hoofs.
It is amazing how alert your senses are and how
clear sounds are during near-death experiences.
My whole reality was made up of those hoofs.
strategy of the chased was to use the dense cover
to slow down the pursuer. They enhanced this with
rapid directional changes and diverting away from
one another. Meanwhile, I had regained the saddle
but was being whacked all over with trees and branches.
My official junior-wrangler uniform was in the
process of being shredded from my body. It seemed
that Lightning had this model the output rule of
which was: when in pursuit, run over any
tree less than 6 inches rather than bothering to
go around it. At this point, I totally gave
in to the moment, put my head down on Lightnings
neck and grabbed two handfuls of mane and shut
no time at all, Lightning had the two heading up
the road toward the corral. The computations must
have been enormous but he executed them without
a flaw. I tried to look like I was in command as
two panicked horses, Lightning and one transformed
neophyte exploded into the enclave. The Senior
Wrangler did not even look up from his task.
two, resigned to their fate, headed for the hay
pile and Lighting for his spot by the fence. He
maintained full speed until about three inches
away at which point he just stopped. I did not.
by this point in the story, I was beginning to
get the picture. I let the momentum swing me out
of the saddle holding on and letting go of the
horn in just the right sequence and timing, thus,
gracefully depositing myself at Lightnings
front feet. He did not applaud this incredible
feat of equestrian showmanship but he did not step
on me either. I nonsulantly draped the reins over
the rail (you never tie up a real horse). The
Senior Wrangler still did not look up.
began to ponder certain metaphysical questions
regarding the meaning of life including why Lightning-bolt
was not even breathing hard - but I was - when
a soft voice asked have a nice ride?
this day, the Senior Wrangler and I had a certain
unspoken understanding. I was not, yet, in the
club but I had been shown the doorway.
of Coffee Creek Ranch swimming pool, Utility
Building and walks (built without supervision)
of Carports for
Apartment project (unbuilt - showed this
drawing to Frank Lloyd Wright)
work... at last! Alternative to Urban sprawl
- my first serious architectural concept.
A decision not to go to collage. The Weekend
Tower Condominiums for San Francisco
(project - Showed this drawing to Frank
experienced-based, student-driven education
process to San Francisco High School Education
Conrich, an architect who was my mentor during
my entry into the profession, called me up one
day and asked if I had ever been a Boy Scout.
I had not. I told Lloyd about my misadventures
in the Cub Scouts - something that I was smart
enough to avoid in later years. He asked me if
I had ever seen the materials related to the
merit badge program. I told him that a number
of years ago I had worked my was through the
architectural merit badge materials and had found
them excellent. This made Lloyd happy. It seems
that he was active in the Boy Scouts and that
there was a program that aired on Public Television
that featured Boy Scouts who had finished various
merit badge projects. There was no one in the
San Francisco bay area, apparently, who had completed
the program on architecture so he asked me if
I would like to be a Boy Scout for a day and
present something on television? Did I have a
project? As it turned out I did!
design became my first work
completed on a preliminary level.
It was build-able then and, if done
it would not be a disgrace to the landscape.
The problem solving process I employed
became a basis of the Taylor Method.
had recently purchased my first Frank Lloyd Wright
books. They were a wonderful introduction to
his work: In the Nature of Materials, The
Story of the Tower, The Natural house,
and, An Autobiography. In these works
Wright talked about the St. Marks Project and
the Price Tower just recently completed. These
expressed his idea that tall buildings should
be use to OPEN the land not crowded together
in congested cities. I was sold. It was clear,
however, that even Mr. Wright had not been able
to get a project of large scale built that fully
accomplished his ideal and I was determined to
see how that might be done. It was not long after,
when I was walking in Golden Gate Park, that
the full impact of the idea hit me. It was a
cool, semi-foggy Sunday morning full of mystery
and magic. I thought: why not a city IN a
park - not a park within a city? I rushed
home and drew all day. It was the next Monday
that Lloyd called. I was amazed by the immediate
opportunity to have the work on television and
was convinced that I would have the project under
construction in no time at all. Of such delusions
youth is composed - and, this is is a good thing
because how else would there be the energy to
work night and day, after work and weekends,
getting the models and drawings finished inside
of a couple of weeks? I expected the project
to have an impact and it did - in ways that I
never could have predicted.
project ultimately completely changed my relationship at
work, introduced me to Talli Maul, led to
an event that resulted in me deciding not to
go to architectural school - it even effected
my future stay at TALIESIN. I
had been tolerated at work up until this time.
However, the day after the show, there was a
definite chill in the air that I was never to
overcome. Of course, I could not figure out why.
I thought that the architects I worked with would
be pleased with my small success just as I would
have been excited to see one of them show one
of their works. Of such delusions youth is composed.
had, by this time arranged to interview with
Mr. Wright to apprentice at Taliesin and so Lloyd
arranged for Aaron Green, his California representative,
to be my mentor on the TV show. Aaron had to
drop out at the last minute so I was introduced
to Tallie Maule who was, at the time, the chief designer
for Warneke and Warneke a very successful local
firm that I had a great deal of respect for. Tallie agreed to do it, reluctantly, as
a favor to Lloyd until he saw the drawings.
His mouth literally hung open. I had prepared
a large scale cross section of the Tower the
6 foot high drawing was impressive. Tallie loved
the work and shifted into high gear. We had three
days to get ready. He told me to finish the drawings
and models and he would take care of the rest.
I was to meet him at the studio a half hour before
the show. I got there early, set up the models
and drawings and... NO Tallie in sight!
The director was going crazy when 3 minutes before
air time - things were shot LIVE in these
days - Tallie exploded into the room under a
pile of books. Tallie was a big, expressive kind
of guy - with more energy then ten needed - and
I was entirely under his spell. We had no time
to get organized. Tallie took charge and said
I was to just answer his questions. The camera
rolled and he opened the first book which showed
a picture of a Roman Camp - what is this? he
demanded. I told him. Book after book, picture
after picture, for 20 minutes. Tallie took us
through the ENTIRE history of the city.
Each diagram he asked me what it was, what central
idea was employed and what were the strengths
and weaknesses of the solution. Most of this
stuff I had never seen before so I had to analyze
and respond on the spot. I had a ball. With 10
minutes to go in our half-hour show, we finished
with modern subdivisions - which I TORE apart
and Tallie asked me so... what is your
answer to all this. I had five minutes
to explain it all - and I did. The energy was
electric and the show was a great success. The
phone started ringing as soon as we were done.
was one of those phone calls that lead to the
event which lead me to never go back to school
[link: the promise - part 2].
to do Working Drawings. Back in the saddle.
June 5, 1999
voice of this document:
VISION STRATEGY DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
June 5, 1999
May 22, 2005
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Taylor 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005