Principal Acadia Architecture
Davide (pronounced dahveedeh )
studied at La Sapienza
University of Rome, Italy.
"On the Making of Architecture"
A man (with other men) walks to a site. Looks at it, collects some materials (maybe debris from previous objects), puts them together, builds a hut, a shelter. He makes architecture. We have a site. A man (or several men). materials. An outcome, the building. Then the inhabitants. Then they move on and build something else.
Inevitably, we have to observe these as individual elements and steps. They appear discrete, isolated, and generating something larger than each individual ingredient.
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There is though a moment, when you step back and accelerate these episodes that warns you of a fact. All of them, from the site to the building, including the men involved, all are made of the same grains of “sands”. Just different combinations of particles, atoms looking for an organization.
What still depicts space as a vast, mostly empty container of artifacts, nature, and life, in the physics of relativity, becomes instead an amorphous approximate continuum of discrete, individual different densities, in quantum physics.
The space is not empty. It is not a container. We don’t put buildings inside the space. The space and the buildings are space. Just different densities of primary tiny elements, different combinations of them, when observed at an infinitesimally small scale.
This connection between all things, I believe, is the driving force behind an art of building that does not seek to impose a style, an artificial and temporary agreeable set of relations, onto a site.
The most natural outcome happens when this development is allowed to take place almost by itself.
Suddenly we start to see the instance of morality, ethical considerations, behind the job of raising something that will be in that place for decades.
We understand the need for it to relate gently with its surrounding, to instill a dialog with the adjacent buildings, with the people nearby and the people who will traverse it daily.
Placing an object on the ground is not the same as continuing the fabric of a storied place and weaving in the life and background of the people needing that piece of architecture.
I believe the purpose of our work is not to design boxes, containers for mundane actions, but rather stages for different emotions. It’s the same space that was there before the constructions took place, but with different and variable densities, different transparencies, different layers of privacy and intensities of natural light, scaling intimacies, psychological relations.
In this sense, the building (whichever is its main function), is not an indifferent background to the human action, but instead an extension of it, a more rigid, formal extension of our intentions, however not a neutral one.
One borne out of an organic development whose outcome is unknown to the commissioners as well as to the designer until enough time has gone by that the discussion has seen many questions and possible responses exchanged, with words and lines chasing each other on paper.
When planned with curiosity, investigation, creativity and ingenuity, a “building” has the capability to amplify the positive emotions people experience, dissect them, offer new perspectives for physical movement and for mental, psychological explorations.
It’s flexibly both a retreat and an interior plaza.
These unique artifacts are just like “kind” clothes that help us in different fashions.
And yet I completely believe that the exterior conveys something that is ebullient under the surface, that starts on the inside.
In my work I don’t design the exterior, meaning there’s no exterior design phase, so to speak.
I don’t apply the traditional categories of giving a “vest”, a “clothing” to a building as if choosing a façade treatment. Let’s make this Victorian, then we need all of those wooden details. Or Tuscany style, therefore we need the stone and the stucco…or French Tudor so we need high-pitched roofs… No.
That’s just borrowing from a book, it has nothing to do with doing architecture. That’s a simplification for the general public and real estate agents.
Ironically, my considerations on the exteriors have nothing actually superficial about them, although they also deal with surfaces.
We’d instead start from the floor plan, and the sections (which are just a vertical floor plan, if you think about it) and once that seems to be working well within the site and the program, when it seems to be flowing well as far as light and space, then you almost automatically derive the overall volume, not face, of the building.
You get an organic entity that breathes, adapts to the site. It doesn’t have a simple flat face that you make cute with some arches and triangles.
You deal with masses that are a logical consequence of the interior spaces and functions.
The problem with what’s called modern residential design, often, is that it implies boxes. Just boxes with some wood cladding. Then, if they have absolutely no detailing, they are considered minimalist.
But they are just that.
Once I read an interview with Alvaro Siza, a Portuguese architect not afraid to use the word “beauty”. To the general public, using this term might seem very common in our field, to be connected to a discourse on architecture.
In reality, within my circle of academics, fellow architects, it is, or it was, a word not seen without prejudice.
It was considered superficial, even constraining, imposing (a set of aesthetics notions imposed on the public for example).
I cherished that quality instead to the point that for me too, as Siza said, that is the measure of a successful program solution.
Instead, the acceptable purpose for architects of my and the following generation, is supposed to be almost only a generic ecological approach.
Yes, it should be about providing economical yet thoughtful housing for everyone, it is about democracy of architecture, it is about re-utilizing the existing structures and not build too much, it is about new forms of construction that technologically help the environment and that also help socialize.
Beauty instead, is an old concept and seen as a superficial and very subjective and I can understand that.
To me however, those sensible, socially involved qualities should always have belonged to good architecture. Not to be the scope of it, but the means.
The beauty I believed in, was not coming from a certain set of rules, of banal qualities that the public usually expects such as : grandeur, expensive materials, height, symmetry, ornamentation, typical proportions.
What I was looking for, is that balance of masses, a dynamic equilibrium found after a “struggle” of parts that finally, for a moment, arrived to a moment of peace. This is what the modern movement at the beginning of the 20th century sought, researched in all visual arts, like cubist painting, even photography, not just architecture.
And in that intense and dynamic harmony of parts, another important quality of beauty came about, one that is moral to me.
The capability to influence the environment. To improve it even psychologically. To have a beneficial impact on the people living that space, living that building. So that they feel pleasure in posing their eyes on those surfaces, that they might be moved to do good deeds, to feel serene, to remember that a built space can still be a form of nature within which to feel at home.
I recall a show called “ Beauty against mafia” as it discussed the redeeming quality of a good environment as it impresses young, forming people.
Siza also said that we don’t invent anything.
It’s true that in the case of architects for example, we cannot invent a new shape, since probably all of those geometrically possible, and even those we can’t achieve in our universe (meaning those with more than three-dimensions) have been described visually or mathematically.
But there can be a combination, a composition that is new. A fresher way to approach space and light.
Every new project of mine strives to have elements I haven’t used or combined in the same way before.
Yes, we don’t invent anything (after all we can only use the same matter, the basic blocks the universe has given us like Legos), but we are all constantly re-shaping and inventing something, and there’s no limit to it. That’s what I love.
Siza finally mentioned how his very initial sketches for a project are good for nothing, the project will change so much over time during design…
How true. I recall many design iterations for four small buildings that I’d called the four dancers, buildings that will not see the light, due to program changes.
For me it’s as if they have sacrificed their lives for something that I still don’t know yet what it is.
But I know that some seeds of their work will be in the final built building nevertheless and that I will try, over time, to infuse in them new life again and again until they will appear in a new project.
This applies to any scale, a whole house, or just a stair idea, a detail that didn’t make it so far.
Kindness as a study of every element and level.