Monday, May 28, 2012

The Architecture of Re-Membering

Architecture is made of memory. The slope of a roof, the shape of a window, and the color of a door contain the record of the minds that conceived them and the hands that crafted them. This is never so clear as in the memorials that honor a person, group or event. At first glance they honor an achievement that took place in a particular moment in time. Looking deeper, we can see the courage those individuals expressed when they were thrown into the whirlpool of powerful and far reaching forces. Even deeper, we can see ordinary people, like ourselves, who responded to great challenges in extraordinary ways. Seeing how they brought forth their hidden strengths calls us to bring forth our hidden strengths.

These encounters with memorials are moments of re-membering. They counter the events that dis-membered our minds, bodies and cultures with healing powers of attention and care. Offering a handful of flowers before a head stone not only honors the person memorialized there. It also offers the ache in our souls a gesture for reweaving the torn fabric of our lives into a new and more human whole.

Since every building and designed object is made of memory, every place can become a memorial for re-membering our lives and the world around us. The words on this screen, for example, are made of eons of human struggle to develop a language that re-members our connections across the great divides between us. The table and chair at a cafe offers a setting to stop in the midst of a hectic day and re-member who we are and sense our interdependence with the web of living. In this way, every place can become a place of re-membering, a place to recollect the fragments of our lives into a revitalized whole.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Creating a Kitchen for Your Soul

Your kitchen is calling. It's inviting you to engage the magic of transformation by taking the gifts of the earth and cooking them into meals that nourish the depths of your being. To make a kitchen for your soul, you don't need an expensive remodel. You don't need new cabinets or industrial strength appliances. All you need is to open your senses to the act of preparing food and the willingness to appreciate the simple miracle being created in the act.
It only takes a moment to shift your kitchen from a storage room for snacks into a place of soulful alchemy. Instead of unconsciously stumbling into your kitchen and grabbing something from the frig, plopping it on a plate and stuffing it in your mouth, try this. Stop, look at where you are and sense the possibilities. The stove is offering fire. The sink is providing water, the refrigerator and cupboards are filled with earthy bounty from the world's garden. All that's needed is for you to feel the desire in your belly and allow it to guide you in creating a meal. As you open the doors of the frig or cabinet to select the vegetables, grains and other items, savor the colors, shapes and design of the food. Imagine the fields and orchards they came from and the natural processes of weather and soil that produced them. As you slice and combine the ingredients, notice how your participation transforms the raw materials of nature and sense your consciousness as an ingredient being blended into the mix. When you place the mixture on the stove or in the oven, feel the power of fire to release the flavors from within the food. 

When the meal is cooked, serve it and eat it with the same attention you put into the preparation. Appreciate the colors and aroma of the food. Enjoy the shapes and materials of the plates and eating utensils. Actually taste what you are tasting. Feel the nourishment of what your are swallowing. Breathe and notice how easy it was to create a kitchen for your soul.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Design Question That Matters

Whether you are designing a closet, a kitchen or a garden, there's one question that's more important than style, budget or square footage. Glossy design magazines ignore this question and focus on shiny objects and dazzling gadgets. Most architects and designers overlook it as their minds glow with visions of innovative forms and dynamic spaces. This may produce beautiful and functional homes, but it often misses an essential ingredient: YOU!  

The creative question that matters and must be addressed if your house is to feel like home is this: "What do you want to experience?" If you don't ask this question, listen for the answers and shape your home to support what you want to experience there will always be a disconnect between you and your surroundings. 

When you choose a new set of flatware, admire its design and materials. More importantly, imagine using it to eat a meal. How does the fork feel in your hand? How will the spoon scoop soup and the fork butter bread? Do this with every design choice you make, from the chairs at your table the floor plan of your dream house on the hill. If you do, the flooring your choose will be supporting the personal character of your life, the walls will embrace your particular style of dwelling in the world and the roof will shelter you dreams, not somebody else's.