My Workspace(s)
CAMELOT at Picnic Island - November 2000
Photo by Gail Taylor
Past, Present, future...

This piece was originally drafted between 2000 and 2002. The PHILOSOPHY of it remains intact and so does my goal of someday establishing The Bay Area as my major work-hub. However, the circumstances of my work have shifted. The first part of this article remains as it was written with some minor edits to resolve time anomalies. The 2005 Update rematerializes these ideas in terms of my continuing nomadic life. Taylor Architecture, although the work is distributed, will lend itself to a main living and working location. MG Taylor’s work, however, is extremely place specific. At the moment, this means all of North America and Europe. The “rooms” in the “house” that I speak of have to go global. This is not a circumstance that is unique to me but one that is increasingly systemic to knowledge workers.

I think that everyone involved in the creation of architecture wants most of all to build for themselves. I certainly do. I have been highly nomadic all of my 49 years of professional work. This has been a frustration to me because to makes building for myself difficult, causes (over a lifetime) a fortune of my revenues to be spent on building not of my making and definitely interferes with the establishment of a practice of architecture which almost always starts of locally focused.

However, this circumstance - in retrospect - has not been all bad. I have spent the majority of the last 25 years working in environments of my own design. The houses that Gail and I have bought and lived in have always been refitted and modified to become exemplar environments if not great art pieces. As I become more distributed in my living-work locations, I am forced to directly embrace the contemporary facts of life that the main stream of architecture is not.

At the completion of iteration6, my major involvement with MG Taylor will begin to decline. This will allow me to get back to my original goal of ARCHITECTURE. At this transition, the San Francisco Bay Area, where I started this quest, will once again become my home again.


The idea of organic architecture is simple at the root of it - it is the process [link] of learning from Nature and applying these principles to the design, building and use of human habitats.


It is not borrowing various shapes and the superficial aspects of Nature; it is not using “natural” materials to build with; it is not found in simply attempting to make minimal the human built environment’s impact on Nature. These means, as worthy as they may be, do not, alone, make an organic result.


The science of the built environment is based on understanding what elements are important to a project - and what these elements mean. The art, is the ability to sense, feel and create place. Great architecture requires a synthesis of engineering and expression [link] - design is the act of fusing a million aspects into a unified whole. When building habitat, economy and ecology are one. Architecture is not a visual art - it is an experiential art and facilitates daily life.


We humans have allowed a disintegrated philosophy of economics [link] and social organization produce a monstrous result in our otherwise legitimate drive to create habitat. In this pursuit, we have failed to accomplish - on any scale - a worthy human result and we have carelessly and needlessly damaged the Earth ecosystem. What we have done - without apparent concern- to other living beings is beyond any possible excuse - we have become a global predator by default and without purpose.


We are, of course, a part of Nature. Criticisms that put us outside of Nature - and somehow responsible for everything - and assert that we should subordinate ourselves “to Nature” establishes a dichotomy that cannot be resolved. Arguments that assert that we are the same as bees - therefore anything we do is acceptable - are equally vapid. Nature is neither a god nor a trash can - Nature is a living system of which we are self-aware - and potentially - collaborative co-designers [link].


Everything we build has an impact - which is to say it has a cost. Unfortunately, we have been adding up only some (and not nearly all) of the human costs. The costs to other living beings are not accounted at all except as they may effect property values. This too parsimonious an accounting system has subverted the results - millions of isolated decisions based only on a short term assessment: “can I afford this action” drives to a self-destructive end. We are part of Nature but in the short term we are not easily constrained from acting destructively. We have to build into our own systems and organizational measures, feedback loops and design constraints that resolve the issues of scope and scale we presently ignore. If we do not, someday it will be done for us and - if history is any president - this will be in the form of a catastrophic collapse.


There are many ways to build these feedback loops so the “market” (that is all of us in the aggregate) does not do stupid and destructive things - the Gaia Project [link] is one of them. The Master Planning process [link], another. These are simply issues of intelligent engineering.


My workspace is Planet Earth. I do not mean this metaphorically. Someday, this will include space [link] beyond our, now existing, primitive, near-earth-orbit startups. At present [until 2003], I spend most of my time in North America - usually, in environments that I designed or inspired. A great amount of my time is spent in Palo Alto at the knOwhere Store [link] and in our Northern California home [link]. In addition, we have CAMELOT [link] to go to. Having these environments make me unusually fortunate. Last year, a design class from Stanford University spent some time with me at knOwhere [link] - one of the students, in a later e-mail, said “you have surrounded yourself with beauty.” I never thought of it that way. I would say I have consciously - with care - made places that express my values [link].


This statement is qualified by the fact that nothing I have done to date - with the exception of CAMELOT - even approaches the level of quality I believe is both necessary and possible - and possible to do on a large scale. The architecture that I have been part of making should be quite ordinary - not seen as “unusual” as it is today. Recent projects [link] are beginning to accomplish several long-held goals: ubiquity, affordability and a level of design that brings out the unique local aspects of the people, time and place of the project.


I travel often and take care to avoid, as best I can, places that are too ugly, have been destroyed or are unhealthy. This is both a good and bad habit. It makes, admittedly, a distorted experience. The scope of the real problems in the larger world can get, and stay, out of mind. So also can some of the extraordinary work, that is going on here and there, be too easily missed. I choose my work carefully shaping my experience of work as best I can. This is not without consequence [link]. It is not an easy thing to keep a balanced view of the world. To be “in it (fully) but not of it (fully).” This is a strange time for philosopher-designers.


My habitat is a world - a planet. And, we all live on it. We share it, uncomfortably, with each other and other life forms. Few of our systems of organization recognize this fact of planet-as-place, and the ones that do, cannot facilitate us - as a species - in the process of co-evolving this artifact [link] that is presently our only home.


Can you think of planet Earth as your habitat and workspace? If a 100 million did, would this make a difference? Impractical? Is what we are doing now - practical?


Personally, I do not draw the rigid distinction between work-space and living-space that is so typical to our culture and time. I have always lived and worked in the same environment. Even my knOwhere work-space [until 2003] has a small private area [link] for thinking, reading and sleeping. It is just recently, however, that I have started to put into practical effect my long held sensibility that different work-living locations can co-operate like the “rooms” of a single building and that the travel [link] to these different places can be - and must be - treated as an architectural experience [link]. This opens the architectural dialog to considering levels of recursion (personal environment, village, region, country or bio-region, continent, world [link]) as active design issues.

In 2002, after the sale of Our Hilton Head Sealoft, Gail and I decided to focus on the Northern california Bay area as our primary home and workplace. Gail retired from MG Taylor and started TomorrowMakers and needed a place that can be home for her - this is Elsewhere. In the mid 90s we had our Sealoft, a slip for Camelot and a knOwhere Store in Hilton Head that served as the MG Taylor Home Office. While still a distributed, virtual corporation we did have a critical mass in one place. The idea, below, is to replicate this hub - in a somewhat more distributed form - in the Bay Area.
Page 225 March 17, 2002 of my post 9/11 Notebook series [link]. The idea of a region as house with several distributed “rooms” connect by transporation “hallways.”

This is what I consider “my” future Northern California PLACE of work and living “rooms.” For a period, I have a couple of these rooms functioning and several in the planning/building stages. Now [August 2005], with the close of knOwhere, there is just Elsewhere. In 2003 the work shifted back to the mid west. West coast work is beginning to regenerate but so is work on the east coast and in Europe. It will take a few years to build-out this Northern California “house” - in the meantime, I will continue to be a knowledge worker nomad. This places special demands on creating place - demands that are not unique to me but increasingly system in our society. I am still committed to Northern California however see the “update” below for and out line of my currant strategy.

My knOwhere POD [link] until the close of the knOwhere Store in April 2003. My POD now resides [link] happily at the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health [link].
Gail’s and my Northern California Coastline home - “Elsewhere” [link] - nestled in redwoods a mile from the Pacific Ocean about ready to get Gail’s “Nest” [link].
CAMELOT [link] is still in Florida. Plans call for bringing her to the San Francisco Bay at some time. Her final location depends on where MG Taylor has significant work and matching this to the lifestyle requirements of her Captain and Mate Butch and Pam Rice.

In addition to the Elsewhere, knOwhere, Camelot and Bay Area Studio “rooms,” my plans include a closer collaboration and co-development with SFIA, in San Francisco [link], and the establishment of an “AI West” shop in the East Bay. In sum, this will create a regional workplace that has global reach.


The continuing growth of client and partner NavCenters (now exceeding 30 facilities) creates another layer of place. At this time, I cannot relate to this place-ness in the visceral way I can the Bay Area. Then again, the “Bay” has always been my spiritual home. I do not know if this is an intrinsic limit of my personal sense of place or if it is a critical mass thing. Will time, growth of these Centers, my more frequent use of them change this? If so, will this provide a “bridge” between the scale I can now FEEL and the scale of planet Earth (which I can now only “understand” as a mental construct)? Is the issue of conflict between people and places one of our ability (or inability) to enlarge what we think of as “us” and “home?” Should the concept [link] of “homeland security” be scaled up to human and animal land security and planetary viability?

Each individual’s - and a society’s time and space FRAME is of primary importance. We are self-focused. And, we should be. The critical issue, however, is how we each define and think of our “self.” Is now ten minutes or a hundred years? Is me just what is inside my skin or my immediate community, country or humankind? Is here my 9/10ths of an acre, Northern California, the USA or a planet? We each will naturally act to preserve, grow and protect what we conceive to be US and OUR GROUP. How inclusive or exclusive this is will determine the outcome.
2005 Update
The original writing, above, is now all tangled up in tenses but is, I think, worth preserving as it is. I spend most of my time these days in our environment adjacent to the first floor expansion of the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health. Already, this year (as of August) I have spent more than 60 days in Europe with the RDS at the World Economic Forum and Liechtenstein. We are seriously considering locating a major work hub in Nashville and, ultimately building a compound there.
Return To Index
Bay Area Studio
Bootstrap Into Space
Creative Augmentation
Crystal Cave
Davos 2005 - IMAGES
EcoSphere Bungalow
Gaia Project - Who Represents Earth?
Gail’s Nest
Index - Matt Taylor Papers
Making PLACE - Tour MGT Environments
Manifesto - The New Workplace
Master Planning Process
Mendocino County - Ecotopia Rising
My Workplace @ knOwhere
Nashville Taylor Snowflake Compound
NavCenter - Creating the Tool
Planetary Architecture - The Case
Return of the Usonian
Taliesin Return - December 2000
Theme in Architecture
THERE - 1982 to HERE
THESIS: Making Authentic Architecture
To hold an unchanging youth, is to...
UpSideDown Economics - 12 Aspects
ValueWeb Architecture
Vanderbilt NavCenter
Worthy Problems
Xanadu Project

Matt Taylor
Palo Alto
September 23, 2000


SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted: September 23, 2000
revised: August 23, 2005

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Copyright© Matt Taylor 2000, 2002, 2005

(note: this document is about 10% finished)

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