Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dwelling in the River

This house would never be built today. Planning codes intended to protect the stream would squash it. The artful genius of a creating this home attuned to this waterfall would be lost. In the race to care for the environment, laws and restrictions often block deeper connections between the earth and human habitation. In the process, new possibilities of creative thinking are shut down. Instead of imaginatively exploring new relationships with local ecosystems, we often let fear and ignorance of genuine ecology cloud our vision of what sustainable living actually is. 

I love this house, but not for obvious reasons. Certainly, Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed it, employed outer forms that are dynamic and beautiful. What I appreciate, however, is that the design rethinks our relationship with the forces of nature. The client who hired Wright imagined a structure that would view of the waterfall from on the opposite side of the stream. Wright leapt out of that box and suggested placing the house in the waterfall. The result was a design that responded to the interaction of stone and water, fixed and fluid.

Inside this house, I feel as though I'm inhabiting a modern cave dwelling. I sense my connection to the rocks and trees. I feel gravity's pull down the steep site. In the rush of stream over cascading stones I feel the rush of blood through my veins. The abstract geometries of the mind and how they intersect with the organic forms of nature are also encountered. The resonance between intellect and ecology opens to our primal relationship to dwelling on earth, that impossible to describe, but tangible spaciousness that gives birth and receives death while leading to new births.

Organic architecture is not found in buildings that look like trees. It does not honor the body and deny the mind. Simple minded, heavy handed codes that crush these multivalent connections do not weave human dwelling into the fabric of nature. They close off openings to the new relationships we are trying to discover. Instead, real sustainable architecture takes the totality of what we are and the totality of what a building site presents and combines them into an alchemy of transformation

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