Beings in arches, spaces, and columns: the example of West Dean

The key, of course, is whether you work hard enough to make each element have its life. Does each column have life? Does each beam have life? Is the shape of the bay just that one which makes it have life? Does the volume of the bay have life? Is it true, when you stand in the room and look at the result, that you are met and overwhelmed, and left in peace, by an overarching subtle life which exists in the volume, in the space, and in the members?

The issue that this will — if done faithfully — produce the goods is not in doubt. What might be in doubt is whether you have the stamina, the sheer will, and stick-to-itiveness, to make sure this happens, because you keep rejecting every version where it doesn’t happen, until it does happen. Do you keep throwing versions because they do not have enough life? Do you wait, at each step, until you get the best life in the member that you can get?

Ultimately, the internal coherence of the building as a structure is what counts above all else. The space and structure, dark and light, form interlocking systems of centers. Often, towards the end of the fiddling around, the spaces are adjusted so that the pattern as a whole becomes beautiful. Deep coherence within the whole, and the feeling of the whole pattern, ultimately gives life to the building. That is far more important than any too-detailed consideration about any one part.

Often we sent faxed pictures and photos of our next step — samples of how the brick would look if it were two and a half inches high, or two inches high; what the corner would look like if the brick arrangement went three then one then three then one, and all the other possible combinations. There was not one piece of stonework on the building we did not discuss like this as the project evolved, and where we did not use the fundamental process to choose the thing which made the greatest — and best — impact on the whole.

(Pages 118-123)

Notes mentioning this note

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