Preface — Background
- Book 1: The Phenomenon of Life
- living structure in buildings and artifacts which support life and are themselves alive.
- Book 2: The Process of Creating Life
- living processes — the class of processes which are needed to create living structure — leading to a new view of the dynamics of architecture.
- Book 3: A Vision of a Living World
- Examples of modern towns, buildings, neighborhoods, gardens, columns, rooms, which to some extent have living structure in them and which have been generated in some degree by living process.
But in the pages of Books 1, 2, and 3, I have so far only hinted at what is possibly the most important thing of all. I have not yet described in the most direct terms, the innermost process that lies behind these phenomena.
That is because the real heart of the matter is something which is not so easily talked about, something nearly embarrassing, which we would perhaps not feel entirely comfortable to blurt out too easily, even to mention.
When I am part of the making of a building and examine my process, what is happening in me when I do it, myself, in my effort, is that I find that I am nearly always reaching for the same thing. In some form, it is the personal nature of existence, revealed in the building, that I am searching for. It is “I”, the I-myself, lying within all things. It is that shining something which draws me on, which I feel in the bones of the world, which comes out of the earth and makes our existence luminous.
This perhaps enigmatic statement about my daily life is not meant to be provocative. Nor is it meant to be profound. It is just a fact for me that when push comes to shove, on a day-to-day basis in my work as an architect, this is how I think about things. I ask myself constantly — and it is the only question I really ask of myself — What must I do to put this self-like quality into the house, the room, the roof, the path, the tile?
Often, I can feel the possibility of this in a thing before I start to make it or before I start to think, or design, or plan, or build, or before I start to paint. It is the sublime interior, the right thing. I first feel existence shimmering in reality, and I then feel it deep enough in the thing I am looking at and trying to make, to know that it is worth capturing in concrete and wood and tile and paint. I can feel it, nearly always, almost before I start. Or, rather, I do not usually let myself start until I can feel this thing.
This thing, this something, is not God, it is not nature, it is not feeling. It is some ultimate, beyond experience. When I reach for it, I try to find — I can partly feel — the illumination of existence, a glimpse of that ultimate. It is always the same thing at root. Yet, of course, it takes an infinite variety of different forms.
In the earlier books, in order to place attention on the questions of living structure, I wanted to speak in a way which was, as far as possible, consistent with our current way of thinking about science and about architecture. I wanted, as far as possible, to present a structure which could be understood in conventional terms. As a result, most of what Books 1-3 contain is consistent, structurally, with what we presently believe about the universe. But underneath that, implied, there is a part which is not consistent with the way we presently think about the universe. Perhaps, in part, I have been reluctant to make it clear enough because it rests on academically unmentionable foundations.
But now, in they fourth book, I must finally admit that beyond the formal structure this is what I experience. No matter how difficult it is to write down and make it believable, it — this — is what I believe all of us can experience. It is cast and impersonal. Yet it is personal, relating to every person.