Architecture for the joy of being

Old growth redwoods outside of Crescent City CA, September 2021 (c)mlRobles

I have lived in Boulder since 1978 when I stopped on my way to Seattle from Tucson. I was a bright-eyed romanticist architecture graduate from the University of Arizona College of Architecture. Boulder struck me as so very very obviously beautiful, it hurt my eyes after the austere and sublime desert of Arizona. I was annoyed at all this beauty just oozing out everywhere I looked. But the city was so sweet and kind and accessible after the endless sprawl of Tucson, so I stayed, and stayed, and stayed.

I began to see beyond the obvious beauty of this natural setting and to love the seasons that transformed verdant landscapes into wet yellow clumps and to find streaks of ochre and lime green in the dirt and rocks and to engage the fog in hide and seek and allow the clouds that sweep over the foothills to blow my mind.

As the decades passed it was the city that began to hurt my eyes and ears. I would travel away and come back to a renewed letdown at the small-mindedness that was driving change in my city. What had been a remarkable Frank Shorter running through the city became every wannabe in spandex flashing through the neighborhoods. What had been neighborhoods of modest bungalows and ranch houses with big mature trees became neighborhoods of houses and trees scraped clean to make way for shiny super-sized and paved mcmansions to satisfy the appetites of the increasing influx of people wanting something from our city. As though that early sweet kind accessible city that nurtured the likes of Frank Shorter and Mo Siegel could be had with a bulldozer!

I have sat in stillness these recent years as bulldozers’ dust made my eyes tear and the loudness of STUFF moving in and around made me deaf. The quieter I got, the less the influx mattered. The raw greed, massive consumption, and little regard for what was already here became innocuous. I stopped fighting and surrendered. And then something remarkable happened. The simple joy of being began to rise. And the questions that pressed my mind had little to do with annoyance at the state of my city, rather they became instances of insight that touched my heart. You can read about this evolution in my previous posts, today, we feast at the center of this insight: architecture for the joy of being!

If this sounds dubious to you, stop and look around. Take a few breaths. What do you feel? Then take another breath and see what you feel, then another and another until you find you aren’t looking around but rather looking within. And all you feel is space. This is the point of architecture: to articulate space such that its inhabitants can find their way to inner space. The noise stops. Joy rises. It is the highest calling of my profession.

I return to being a bright-eyed romanticist but I am also a mature architect and I know that not everyone is ready to be still and to find their way to the space within. The dazzle of stuff remains strong. Architecture for the joy of being, however, is here, for those who are ready.