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The Fan Dance v Full Naked Glory – a Zen View

Posted by On Oct 02, 2015 In Ideas Tags , , ,

If Scheherazade had been an architect she would never have designed a building that revealed the full monty from the outset and leaving witnesses wanting little more. Architecture is a bit like storytelling, the best work reveals itself in time, it tells a little something of context, contents, lives, and most importantly it should be engaging, rich and complex. So I ask… do we want our architecture to be a centre-fold or a fan dance?

Back in first year architecture I was captivated by a section of a book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. The section was titled A Zen View and describes a Buddhist Monk’s House. The house is a small stone house high in mountains that look out to sea. The view of the sea, however, is not visible from the house or from the roadway that the Monk took to arrive at his house. To enter the house people would pass through a courtyard built from thick stone walls. The entry gate was located on one wall, a slit was carved from the wall opposite and the house’s entrance in the adjacent wall. As a person moved through the courtyard, at one point the slit would align with their view and reveal the momentary spectacle of ocean view.

The experience is described in the book, as follows:

The view of the distant sea is so restrained that it stays alive forever.

Should we not seek this from our architecture? A framed view is always a more powerful and enduring view than the full frontal and exposure of all. All this is aside from any environmental issues around the poor environmental performance of glass. We must demand a more sophisticated architectural approach to views, and design more like Scheherazade for a Buddhist Monk.

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