Place as the Starting Point

Musings on Place

Our cat in her favorite place teeming with friends.

Our cat in her favorite place teeming with friends.

To build a house is to change a place, so before designing and building a new house I remind myself to ask a few simple questions, like:

  • How will building a house change the place?
  • Will it enhance it by adding beauty to it? 
  • Will it improve it by adding quality to it?

The answers to these questions are subjective since they revolve around sentiment and emotion - and personal opinion. For one, I like to think the work my wife and I do is handsome and adds beauty to a place. Our houses are also built with high quality non-toxic finishes & materials, durable reclaimed hardware, and the highest grade woods that will last generations and are more likely to survive the vicissitudes of time. 

Sometimes there already exists a standard for a place. In such situations these same questions can actually be objective. Our next building site, a place my wife and I intend to live, is just this type of place. It asserts a community standard, that of historical preservation, for new architecture. This was, admittedly, a turn off to me at first because I enjoy designing on my own, unfettered. After considering things for awhile, however, I came to appreciate that a conversation was taking place and that the rules weren't etched in stone with plenty of creative space. Ultimately, I learned that it's good practice to get to know a place, including its community, prior to making decisions that could alter both.

Once a project is ready to move ahead, I then start to ask myself straightforward objective questions:

  • How will the house affect the neighborhood commonwealth
  • Will it add quality in terms of value to the place?
  • In what ways will the house become an asset to the community?

Knowing facts about a place aids in designing a good house - for me that's a house that works "naturally" into its place, it's a house that just fits both land and community. It also helps me calculate the budget and time required to achieve the vision. 

So, place is important. It warrants some consideration, especially since you can't go home without it.