“Your thoughts and your actions are fixed forever in their terms. That is slavery. I, on the other hand, brought you freedom. Freedom is expensive, but the price is not impossible. So, fear your captors, your masters. Don’t waste your time and your power fearing me.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Echoes from Building Beauty Seminar of April 4th 2019

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1: Project as a Living Being!?

In my experience as a Yoga practitioner there is only so much that can be done on the mat. Ultimately the work and qualities of Yoga push up against the realities of life. There is where the real work of change happens. What changes can I make in my life that support the Yoga mat?

If I practice in the morning but then go into an busy and nervous day of work, then the next morning my practice will echo that nervousness. In this way my practice is limited to what my life allows. If I want to go beyond that I need to see how can I change my day so that it becomes a better preparation for the practice that follows it the following morning. This can lead to changing smaller things like food and rest to larger things like career and relationships.

I am wondering if a parallel can be drawn to Building Beauty. If the question of building beauty is confined to the geometry of architecture … it seems there is only so far we can go … or that going further demands a struggle. So my attention moves to the backdrop in which creating beautiful geometry takes place. What choices can be made to create conditions which are more conductive to building beauty? Can I move to a city (or country) where municipal planning and culture prioritize building beauty? When looking for a job – can I look for architecture firms that prioritize building beauty?

What about the “project” of architecture? Can that be treated as a living being? Can that be treated as something that can be made beautiful? I think (though not sure) that it was in book 3 that Alexander talked about the expansion of the profession of architecture: what about project management (Susan talked about holding on to clear priorities)? what about budgets and schedules (Alexander’s example of working on a 25 year budget for a neighborhood)?what about group decision making (Alexander’s example of building a bench: by finding a correct sequence of small questions – agreement is increased and conflict can be reduced)? what about non-violent communication? There is plenty of innovation happening in many of these fields … innovation that I suspect is in alignment with building beauty.

My life and reflections of recent years had led me to believe that there is much more potential and leverage in focusing on the conditions in which change takes place instead of directly working on that which I want to change. Isn’t this echoed in Alexander’s idea of strengthening a center by working on other centers that support and embellish it. I feel that the conflict that was discussed may be an indicator / invitation / opportunity to look at a bigger picture … beauty that goes beyond geometry and environment in which beautiful geometry may be created.

How can the “project container” of “beautiful geometry” be made beautiful?

2: Commonality

Alexander’s humanistic approach has been a great reminder for me that we have so much more in common than different … and it is beneficial to explore the common-ground! I have a feeling that many (most?) people who are “doing architecture” the mainstream way are unsatisfied with it but don’t know what to do about it. If that is the case, then “conflict” may be an opportunity to help another person find his/her way through their own confusion?

For that to happen, when conflict emerges, it needs to be recognized and given time, space and energy. If the conflict emerges but pressure continues in the default direction of “architectural progress” … then it can’t really be addressed and it becomes a missed opportunity (and accumulates tension).

3: Beware Biting Metaphysics

Though I am personally very much interested in metaphysics, I have come to believe it is something that is usually best to stay away from (with most people). Most people in the modern western world) were raised (often unconsciously!) to believe that the world is a lifeless and complicated machine and that matter is inert. Suggesting to such a person that space itself is alive can undermine their sense of security and place in the world. I’ve learned (the hard-way) that is not a good opening move to finding common ground. Tension is corrosive.

However inviting someone to a simple (accessible) “mirror of the self test” can lead to interesting reflection. It can gently coax out subtle internal paradoxes and invite reflection … and that may lead someone down a path of discovery. Curiosity is nourishing 🙂

 

 

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