Saturday, November 7, 2015


Work and other commitments have again taken priority in my schedule, so blogging by necessity must take a back seat. Regardless, I like maintaining a pace of at least one new post a week, so I appreciate being able to draw once more upon Bill Kleinsasser’s self-published textbook Synthesis. The following excerpt typifies his advocacy of a design philosophy grounded first and foremost in experiential and phenomenological considerations, as opposed to purely formal ones. For Bill, the important thing was the creation of opportunity-rich, vivid, connected, inclusive, and eloquent life-spaces for people to inhabit, work, and play in. He believed in empowering those who use or encounter the buildings and places architects design. By offering choice, architects willingly relinquish how their creations may be used and evolve. Fostering choice is a means to sustain delight, utility, longevity, and value for generation after generation of users. 

The need for choice and diversity in the manmade environment comes mainly from the confrontation between the relative permanence of the manmade environment and: 
  • Different people, different circumstances, different activities and purposes
  • Change in personalities, states of mind, activities and purposes, and values.
As different people (users/occupants of the environment) and change occur in the environment, the environment itself must somehow be able to flex in spite of its permanence, to accommodate what is new (whether that be people, new circumstances, new purposes, new values, or all of these). 

If the manmade environment offers diversity and choice (and degrees of changeability) it will be able to accommodate different people and change more broadly. It will be a looser fit, but still a fit. 

Change of fixed facilities and/or institutions:
These may be determined by life space analyses and checked with life space diagrams. They also may be determined by careful analysis of predictable activities and recurring actions. 

Choice of paths to take:
For this kind of choice to exist, there must be alternate paths that have been made visible, accessible, inviting, and safe. Each must be well-developed as an important sub-analysis. Each must be where it is needed. 

Choice of how much is done for us (the choice of making our own places):
This may range all the way from making entire places (which not everyone can do) to impacting them only modestly. A flexible, participatory process of design and construction is required for this kind of choice. If more people had the opportunity to make their places, if they chose to do so, the built environment would probably take on significant new meaning and improve in quality. It might also cost less. 

Choice of spatial configuration or arrangement:
Opportunity for this kind of choice occurs twice in the built environment. Firstly, through participation in the planning, design, and construction processes, and secondly by manipulation of physical conditions that have been designed to invite change; that is, by “imprinting.” 

Choice of places to be:
A built place may have many places to be if it has large spaces as well as small, private spaces as well as public, edge spaces as well as internal, undesignated spaces as well as designated, changeable spaces as well as fixed, dark spaces as well as bright, low spaces as well as high, plain spaces as well as elaborate, etc. The consideration of dualities such as the ones mentioned above may be used as a means of generating ranges of spatial opportunity in built places. Such consideration, in addition to other ordinary considerations, may greatly expand the richness of any spatial framework and facilitate the finding of desirable spaces within ordinary programmatic requirements.


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