It is early in 2010. And I have just uploaded a new version of www.lymarch.com. The first version went online around 1997. At that time, I was so excited to have found a new web site design program called NetObjects Fusion. With NetObjects Fusion came a neat way to write a whole website in which text and pictures could mix and align in interesting ways that did not have to conform to correct Swiss design. They gave themselves a big anniversary party on the lawn in South Park here in San Francisco.
The early version of my website was called “Stories from a Practice of Architecture”. It was my first writing about architecture in sometime, since I had stopped largely doing that two decades earlier after my book “A Psychology of Building” published by Prentice-Hall. I would now be my own publisher, or so I thought. Well that didn’t quite happen.
Being now an architect in business for myself, I did not seriously consider the implications of what writing about my own work would be in the context of trying to get more work. Rather than apply analytic parameters from an impartial standpoint, I felt I had client interests and privacy to protect. My Stories separated out into a few philosophical pieces followed by a series of stories that served as a gallery portrait of my work from viewpoint of only two parameters – residential versus public works or dense urban designing versus more spread out suburban designing.
Today I still like the philosophical pieces better. They have evolved in the “Preliminaries” section of the Stories, an idiosyncratic set of commentaries that I think point to important understandings about buildings and architecture. In this new version of the site, the rest of the stories have been updated with new projects and newer and larger photographs and plans. But I have not delved more critically into the projects. I find that I talk more frankly and more interestingly about my work in the context of public lectures and interviews.
In the past decade there has been a shift in architectural analysis towards a more upfront, down to earth discussion of the creation of architecture. Polemic, formalistic concerns have started to give way to straight forward observations of the relationships between architects and their clients, communities and builders. With the release of the private papers of Frank Lloyd Wright to the Getty Museum archives, have come several major new studies of his work. One of the best of these is the remarkable design study of Fallingwater called “Fallingwater Rising” by Franklin Toker, published by Knopf in 2003. And in the last decade, with the emergence of Frank Gehry, has come his example of an architect who speaks dangerously from his mind and heart with little reservation about withholding his comments about clients and community circumstances.
Coming from a Chinese American background, with it’s emphasis on understatement and publicly not “rocking any boats”, it has taken me a long time to find the power of a revealing, honest public telling to further working relationships and design circumstances.
A decade ago, NetObjects Fusion gave way to GoLive. Then GoLive gave way to Dreamweaver which now no longer supports the wonderful graph paper like graphic compositional power of NetObjects and GoLive (complex embedded tables). Along with this progress has come my own increasing inability to work directly on my website. I now require specialist expertise. I am lucky to have had the recent help of a Java and CSS expert – Adam Gillett (www.adamcgillett.com) – who used to work for me in an architectural capacity. Yet I refuse to give up the graph paper, so I have kept one of the office’s Macs deliberately running out of date version system software in order to use an out of date version of GoLive.
Not everything has been lost to progress. I am writing and annotating this blog on the run from my iPhone. And a client now ventures to his construction site with the full set of our construction drawings on his iPhone.
www.lymarch.com should feel more visual with its slide show and larger pics. I’m still an analytical guy, so words remain, something most legitimate architecture firm websites seem to find offensive – minimal text and beautiful, Flash sites are fashionable these days. And finally my site has a uniform site navigation system. With the inclusion of this blog and a series of short videos, I am trying once again to see if I can tell some Stories that are architecturally interesting. With the HERE videos, I am beginning this effort by not focusing on my own work, but on what I see around me in San Francisco.
Last year, I was contacted by a couple who bought and retired to the first house that I designed (and built) in rural New Hampshire some 36 years ago. They are probably the 5th owners of this 4 acre hillside property. We talked over its construction and the alterations that had been made to it. I was stunned to learn that the woods that had enclosed the house had been cut down to create a hillside meadow for a previous owner’s horses. The house now exposed and singularly tied to its rock strewn knoll. I was encouraged by a sense that its new owners had a feel for the home’s original intent, despite its current circumstances.
Recently, I’ve had several requests by authors to use drawings from my “A Psychology of Building” – the line drawings that I did depicting the evolution of Carl Jung’s lakeside getaway lodge in Bollingen, Switzerland.
It’s nice to know that parts of what one has done are still fresh and alive.