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Architecture Sydney Lea I seem a genetic sport among the males of my famüy. Though no professional , my father was a more than competent carpenter. Both my brothers have made their Uvings as contractors and, in the case of the surviving one, lay designers. Perhaps, as firstborn, and despite a completely affectionate relation to my father, some Oedipal impulse moved me in another direction . In any case, though I can perform the simple tasks ofwhat that Uving brother caUs "wood-butchery," the notion of constructing an entire house strikes me as something arcane, something that other people do. Yet I've historically been drawn to such people. When I was in coUege, my closest friends were aU architecture students, and among my closest since are the man who drew plans for the house my famüy inhabits, and the man who executed those plans. I think what I admire is their capacity, a priori, to envision a complex totaUty. How exotic to me as a writer, who doesn't even know ifhe'U go out ofthis very reverie saying the same things he did on coming in; who generaUy begins with some tiny detaü—a bird, a snatch ofconversation, an effect of breeze, whatever—and then works his way from that detaü to a verbal construct, in which, he hopes, someone else might metaphoricaUy Uve. Only, alas, metaphoricaUy. A poem is no more a palpable actuaUty than a word is the thing it describes. To that extent, however straightforward I strive to be, I traffic in obUquity. The architect and buüder do otherwise. They conceive the whole, then assemble its components—and in the end I too can Uve, both metaphoricaUy and physicaUy, in what results. True to my nature, however, my appreciation of their efforts rarely transcends the incidental. Oh yes: I can approach our house from a distance, can thrül to the aptness of the dweUing to its woodsy setting, or to the conformation of the place's exterior (and later, its interior); but I'm more often moved by the way our stone chimney meets a wall just so, our Uving room windows give onto a portion ofthe south wing, so on. My attention to such 104 Sydney Lea105 minutiae seems to make my abode—though I didn't and couldn't design it—an extension ofmy personaUty. When I think of architecture, then, I tend not to think hoUsticaUy, nor to think big. I am less attracted by the grandeur of a Seagrams building in NewYork than by the Uved-in look of a WestViUage brownstone. I sometimes work inTuscany, where I'm far less taken by the splendors ofthe black and white Sienese duomo than by the more modest gestures of farmhouses outside the city waUs. I appear, in short, to be easier with the beautiful than with the sublime. Of course, aU this is in my case characterological. I know that the sublime is not meant to put me at ease but to make me sensible, in the words of the great poet Coleridge, that "I am nothingF'Yet I can too readüy feel that on my own. No more than a middle-aged bourgeois, I do crave ease— especiaUy infamiglia. To that extent, I gravitate to buildings that are not only buüt to human scale but that also seem comprehensible on a basic sensory level. Those Tuscan farmhouses appear to me organic: though I know that an overaU design, however rough, dictated the positioning of that window, that arch, that hearth, I can somehow imagine the structure evolving, say, from the very hinge I contemplate. It's affixed to a door, lets it open onto a haUway, which could only meet another at the perpendicular, in order for the larger children's room to standjuxtaposed with the smaUer parents'. AU this was requisite, in the interest offamily harmony. I speak impressionisticaUy and ignorantly, I know. Indeed, the hinge-tobedroom gambit I havejust surmised likely shows my imposition ofa poetic perspective on an enterprise to which it is scarcely pertinent. And yet my notion of organic architecture depends, precisely, on harmony—in its originative sense ofjoining. The Tuscan hinge...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-1733
Print ISSN
1522-3868
Pages
pp. 104-106
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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