Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Nature of Usefulness

© Punkin Dunkin Productions

Thirty spokes will converge in the hub of a wheel
but the use of the cart
will depend on the part of the hub that is void.

With a wall all around a clay bowl is molded
but the use of the bowl
will depend on the part of the bowl that is void.

Cut out the windows and doors in the House as you build
but the use of the House
will depend on the space of the walls that is void.

So advantage is had, from whatever is there
but usefulness rises
from whatever is not.

-From Chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching, The Nature of Usefulness

My week long urban field studies class ended today. For the last four days, our group has visited several urban sites including Broadway Place in Eugene, and many places in Portland such as Old Town, China Town, the Pearl District, Lauralhurst, Fairview Village, the Albina neighborhood, New Columbia, Hillsboro and Orenco Station, as well as much of Florence. The one thought that stuck with me, especially when it came to the brand new developments of Fairview Village and New Columbia is that developers and architects are very quick to dub their creations a success- simply based on how much money and buzz they generate at the start of a project.

One thing that I have come to realize in the last few months, (especially when I completed a paper titled Rethinking the Right Angle: Women and Gender Issues in the Architectural Field which discussed the struggle not only for professional women architects but the design aspects and problems that arise in both masculine and feminine design), is that my designs are never to be considered successful before they are completed. My designs will never be successful in my own eyes. It seems to me that the success of a space, whether it be a small 900 square foot house or a 10 acre urban community cannot be judged by its creators. It can only be judged by those who experience the space every day and the quality of interactions that are developed within the space. My true success as an architect will come from what is not on the blueprints. It will come from that which I cannot fully plan for- the void between the walls. If I am destined to be an architect of design, then I must learn to be an architect of the human soul.


Blogger Ghost Dog said...

One of my favorite chapters of the Tao Te Ching. The translation I have is a little different, though.

4:48 PM  

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