Maison de Rueil, by Édouard Manet (1882)
The following brief piece by Bill Kleinsasser demonstrates how broadly he viewed the architect’s responsibilities. His emphasis upon the interconnectedness of systems resonates now more than ever as we increasingly grasp how complex and expansive the processes and consequences of environmental design are. Only the gender bias (“man’s pattern-making,” “man’s awareness,” “his frames of reference,” and “his capabilities”) expressed in Bill’s writing betrays how old this passage is. Read on:
The simplest and most familiar basis for organizing and shaping the physical environment is support for human activities. This basis involves accommodation of purpose and has both operational and experiential aspects. Changes in people, changes in activities, changes in institutions, the consequent desirability of loose fit and open-endedness, on the one hand, and exacting standards of performance on the other, reflect that this basis for organization involves activity families or families of use. These families imply varying amounts of specificity regarding configuration and equipment.
Respect for Existing Systems
Outside of the institutions of man our physical surroundings belong to everyone and to no one. Because of this we can conceive of our physical environment as being extensive and continuous, both in terms of scales of existence or involvement and in terms of the interactions of systems. This accounts for this most fundamental basis for organizing the environment: respect for and sensitivity about existing systems. We need to make new systems that manifest the interdependence of life, recognizing that the physical surroundings we make both affect and are affected by other systems. This directs our attention to symbiotic and commensalistic relationships, as well as niches, dominance, and hierarchies.
Maintaining the Ability to Make New Patterns / Heightening Awareness
Within and in addition to the first two bases for environmental organization and configuration are two more: maintenance of the physical and psychological vitality of man’s pattern-making capabilities and heightening of man’s awareness, expansion of the number of and meaning of his frames of reference and views of reality. The first is a matter of nourishing his capabilities; the second a matter of adding to or intensifying them. The first indicates the need for certain kinds of environmental characteristics and configurations; the second suggests precision and order. The first produces stimulation; the second poetic impact.