Authentic Architecture
Environments For Transformation
In life, you get what you pay attention to. Great architecture helps you pay attention to the right things. While facilitating the daily conduct of life, architecture provides a point of view, a way of looking at life, including your own while you are experiencing it - architecture is a focus, an expression, an art that you live in - architecture is built values. It is “frozen music” that you can touch and watch as the mood of the day changes and the seasons come and go. Humans make architecture and, in turn, architecture shapes their way of engaging with the physical world. By doing this, it in part, shapes what and who we are.
In the 21st Century, for millions of people, architecture is pervasive. So much so that it is hardly considered - it has become their default physical reality - in place of what we used to call Nature. It is often ignored; yet, it is there - the surrogate reality that we have created without considering its impact on us or the other life forms which inhabit our planet. This is a colossal mistake.
Wright said “when I speak of organic architectureI do not mean something hanging in a butcher shop.” He meant that we should look into the nature of things and employ this nature in the shaping of our buildings [link]. Organic architecture, to Wright, did not mean copying nature in a trivial and superficial way. I use, in regards my work, the term authentic architecture - the architecture of authenticity. I do this to get at the issues of integrity and legitimacy both of which speak to the deep crisis of our time. There is little integrity, today, in our social realm and few institutions that possesses true legitimacy. This is, of course reflected in our architecture. Have you every looked at the back of a building? This is an interesting question given that, because of the pervasive us of the automobile, most of us enter through the back (or sides) of most building most of the time. Yet, the old habit of mendacity - all front - holds in the overwhelming number of cases. However, do not greave; these backs are usually made ornate by the presence of evil-smelling dumpsters. We do not deal very well with trash either. I suppose that, in this regard, you could say that our buildings have great integrity (made more so by a tame population that has learned what they are not supposed to pay attention to as they just “walk on by”). I remember once, in the 80s when New York was at its lowest point, watching a obviously rich matron get out of a limo on 5th Avenue and very carefully pick her way to an elegant, expensive shop stepping over and around the trash, filth and several sleeping destitute people without even really seeing them. The contrast was poignant. I had to admire her; nothing, no evidence, was going to spoil or change her view of New York City. I did wonder if the mental processing that this required left any band-width for anything else.
This piece is my argument for integrity and legitimacy in architecture - for authenticity. There is a cause and effect here. Our architecture does express our values. In this sense it is doing just what it should and must. However, it can go the other way and sometimes does. we can deliberately create architecture that causes us to look in another direction; that pulls us up; that transforms our sense of what we should be, who we are, what we can do and what we should be paying attention to. This is needed now. We have the architecture of squalor; the architecture of sprawl; the architecture of boredom; the architecture of the quarterly returns; we even have the architecture of cool and super hyper tectonic fantasies. We have the architecture of real estate deals. We have architecture that shouts and prances - that hypes and promotes, that fakes you out. What you will not often see, however, is an authentic expression of the best that we can be, a place of true comfort and repose; a place at peace with itself and nature; an expression of striking ideas gracefully done - a place of enduring beauty. A building that does not pollute nor consume needlessly. When such a building does get built - it is a shock. Ask yourself why this is so and what this means to our future. Think back 50 years and ask yourself what another half century of the status quo, only 4 times more so, will yield.
Architecture will not save the world. It does reflect it. It is the place in which we conceive our future and take the actions which make this future - for good or ill - come to be.
I have invested 50 years in defining what authentic architecture is and studying how to build it. I have learned a great deal and accomplished little. This is an outline of some of the lessons that have been learned and documented and how these can be reframed into statements of principle and practices which can effectively govern the process of conceiving, making and using human-built environments to facilitate the transformation of our individual lives and that of society as a whole.
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THESIS - Making Authentic Architecture
MG Taylor Environments - a Tour

Matt Taylor
February 20, 2004


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posted February 20, 2004

revised february 27, 2004
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note: this document is about 5% finished

Copyright© Matt Taylor 2003

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