project concept has been over 40 years in development.
Many architectural streams
flow into it. This expression of it was catalyzed by
an Innovation Center venture that we explored, in
with a team from HP. Nothing came of it but the exercise
was worth doing; it caused this concept to re-emerge
in its present form. Ideas like Xanadu require “multiple
tries over time” and get stronger each try. The
design process is in part a morphological process with each
iteration, itself, making the idea more a living thing
and less an abstraction.
Xanadu project, as of January 2001,was re-organized
as a PatchWorks Design exercise.
This launched a long term effort to develop the architectural
and technological capability necessary for producing
a work of this kind. It also involves searching for
a project opportunity that the Xanadu concept will fit.
Xanadu is now an architectural R&D project with
every expectation of someday becoming a real project.
In December of 2002, we got the first nibble indicating
interest in Europe. The innovation process is becoming
a EEU-wide initiative. A regional-scale Innovation Center
is called for.
Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an
And here were forests ancient
as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery”
The teacher’s voice was strong, full and
melodious; sunlight lit the room, it was springtime
and I was in love... A 200 year old idea sprang
to life in my mind - and changed my life. It does
not let go. It still burns.
Coleridge quote captures the essence of the idea. After
my time at Taliesin (1958),
I took some courses at Orange Coast College, in Costa
Mesa, California. I attended a literature course from
a wonderful teacher whose name, unfortunately, I have
forgotten. I do remember he wrote a book about his Hobo
youth in the depression called “9 League Boots.”
He was totally dedicated to his work and would walk
in each class, already talking. Holding a stack of books,
he would read out loud and talk for the whole period
while pacing back and fourth - one side of the room
to the other. He was always totally absorbed in the
material, but strangely, could reach out and make surprisingly
intimated contact with his students. At the end of the
too short a time, he would keep on talking and just
exit out the door. He would always do this, without
looking at his watch, a few moments before the bell.
We always wondered if he keep talking all the way to
the next class but we could never catch up with him
- this, at least, explained the 9 League boots.
he read the Coleridge poem and the concept hit me like
was passionately in love at
the time, with a girl named Kay, and somehow that
made the image even more poignant. Xanadu caused a great
deal of stirring round in the head and other places
of a 20 year old boy who was fired up about making architecture
and making love and completely confusing the two. I
could see the poem as a structure in my mind but, of
course, I could not set it to paper. Not then. You can’t
draw when you are always pacing the floor listening
to Bolero at full volume and dreaming of the next moment
together. The memory of the poem, the girl and the building
has always stayed with me as a totally visceral experience
- I can still feel them. I feel like I could turn around
and they would be standing there, grinning, asking me
what have I been doing?
trying to figure it all out” would be the answer.
never did draw Xanadu until the HP Team came into
in the summer of 2000 and articulated a program that
seemed worthy of the idea. This turned out not to
true but it did “pop” the sketch. I don’t
think the Team ever got the magic of the building
they were fine with the program of it. Well, the architectural
idea sat for 40 years and may sit for a few more -
matter, Coleridge has waited for 200. The image slipped
away from him also. He was interrupted by a delivery
man. The modern Xanadu waits for a business opportunity
not dominated by the soul/body dichotomy. It waits
someone who understands that if you want sustained
innovation you have to build a cathedral to it and
for it. We are talking
soul-stuff here not real estate. You don’t get
ideas like Xanadu for free. You don’t get valid industrial
and social innovation for free either.
number of factors have to converge for a creative idea
to jell - in fact, the factors gelling is what creativity
is. These factors are not incidental. They live in any
work that has life. Living a creative
life is putting yourself in the path of those factors
and not failing when they converge with you (or on you).
Frank Lloyd Wright knew
this as few did. Making an environment for creativity
means making an environment where the density of these
factors is greater, where awareness is greater, and
the ability to act, when serendipity flashes, is greater
than other places. This is the kind of environment that
Xanadu has to be. These are the kind of circumstance
that will make a Xanadu come to life.
will take years for this project to come about and a
great number of new
elements will have to come together
- in the right order - for it to happen. When it does,
Coleridge - and Kay - and many others, some not yet
on the scene, will be as much the architect as myself.
What will breath LIFE into the project will be the opium
induced dream of an English poet, the almost overwhelming
desires of a young lover, the business ideas of a creative
design team yet to come along, and many, many other
elements too numerous to know before the fact. To build
it will also take 45
plus years of accumulated experience, the hard lessons
learned, the skills patiently crafted and a memory uncorrupted
by any of it.
is these factors, properly forged into art
that will make a living space - a place where creativity
blossoms - not destroyed like in typical venues but
freed to express and be expressed. Creativity does
not live easily in those dried-up prune-like, sterile
our society now calls workplaces.
It wants out. It needs mandate - and dedication. “In
Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree...”
What words! Can you see it? Can you feel it? Can you
live without it? Can we afford to let it go?
June 4, 2000
SolutionBox voice of this document:
VISION • STRATEGY •
June 4, 2000
revised: December 9, 2002
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• 20021209.333300.mt •
note: this document is about 90% finished
Copyright© Matt Taylor 2000, 2001, 2002