The Unbearable Lightness of Building

Slice-o-Life Department:

It was not my most ambitious meal, but I was really happy with the
way the sauce came out. After sauteing the onions and mushrooms
in butter, deglazing with white wine, then adding the fresh chopped
tarragon and vegetable stock, this formed the base of a subtle but aromatic
cream sauce for the pan-seared salmon steaks, resting on a bed of
mushroom risotto (with a little extra cognac to kick it up a notch).

And Gigi was just sitting there, absently poking at it with her fork.

This was right out of a gender-bent 50’s melodrama. I was ready to stand up, rip
the metaphorical apron off and plaintively wail in a fake Cary Grant accent,
“dahling, where has the magic gone ?”

It turns out that

  1. The fish had bones in it (of which she has been scared since Julie swallowed one years ago).
  2. She was thinking about how to completely re-arrange all the rooms in the house design
    to solve some long-standing issues with the current plan.

Good news all around. I had not known about issue #1, but I thought I was the only one waking
up at 3am with brooding thoughts about loft design, light, stone vs. wood, and
soils compaction tests.

The only trouble is, her ideas mean going back a few steps and redoing part of the process I
thought we had finished with. Frustrating. But I have to admit, they open up ways to make
the overall plan cleaner and simpler, with a smaller footprint, but more interesting internal
design and structure that comes closer to what we had in mind originally. Stay tuned.

Next time, I’ll be sure to get the fish filets without the bones in them.

Christopher Alexander

Started reading Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order,
in which the architect/philosopher describes his ideas about what makes
a (building | place | town | anything) alive in a real sense. I have found it
to be very illuminating, and in particular it has helped me understand why I very
much like some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, but not others.

Alexander is the founder of the “pattern” concept in architecture, which has gone on to
be used (or misused) in software development, design processes, and even dating. He
has catalogued dozens of patterns that may be used to solve a particular problem, in
such a way that has been found to enhance the “living” nature of the place. For example,
the pattern “ROOMS LIT ON TWO SIDES”, Alexander observes that you should design
rooms so that at least two sides have light coming in, to accomodate the movement of the
sun and avoid having the room too dark at any one time of the day.

In one of his earlier works, The Timeless Way of Building, Alexander
talks about “The Quality That Has No Name”, that refers to any building or place,
in which you feel more alive.