How do you know if something is beautiful? Maybe a better question is WHEN, do you know something is beautiful. I find that beauty strikes us. It fills us with wonder and awe and often stops us in our tracks as we seek to ponder and grasp its complexity. This happens to people on mountain walks, with sunsets, and sometimes with architecture and a beautiful space.
The New Urban architectural movement demonstrates a unique talent for capturing beauty in architecture. My recent “Grand Tour” (see earlier post) to Alys Beach confirmed this conviction. Alys Beach lies on the gulf coast of Florida near Panama City Beach and is 1 of 3 distinct New Urban communities that include Rosemary Beach and Seaside. Each is a wonderful example of a creative and unique expression of beauty.
Many times during our stay I found myself struck by the harmony of the architecture. I remember openly thinking, “why is this so tranquil and beautiful here?” Even my teenage children seem to innately understand the design ideals?” I believe the secret is found in 2 ideas; order and sense.
Order: When God created the heavens and the earth he established order out of chaos. When we encounter order, we naturally feel at ease and at rest. I suspect the idea of rest or peace is most profound in a place of order and harmony. At Alys Beach, the organization of the homes, the sculpted courtyards, even the placement of trees that clearly define the parking lots are ordered. Order, like the absolute of a math equation, provides peace and security. It is a firm foundation where we can rest.
Sense: By sense I mean it “makes sense”. Architecture makes more sense when there is a driving philosophy that unifies the design inside and out. A cohesive design allows us to understand what a building or home is saying. We might say, the design is clearly communicated. At Alys Beach the architecture is inspired by the traditional architecture of Bermuda. The white stucco walls and sharp architectural details unify the community but are also great spring boards for creativity and inventiveness. This balance between a unifying theme that is not monotonous but instead allows creativity is key.
The pictures that follow are just a glimpse of the charm and joy we found at Alys Beach. Hopefully, it will encourage you to go visit these communities. When you go, park the car, get on a bike and wander through these communities and I believe you too, will be struck by beauty.
St Augustine wrote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” In the 18th century rich young men would travel as a sort of finishing school. The trip they took soon followed a common path from France and then to Italy. This trip came to be called The Grand Tour. While in those days travel was a luxury only for the rich, these days, travel is something everyone should do, and when you travel inspiration should be your goal.
For Thanksgiving this year, my family is headed to Alys Beach. Alys Beach is in the enviable spot on the gulf coast of Florida between Seaside and Rosemary Beach. Alys Beach is a beautiful courtyard and new urban community inspired by Bermudan architecture. The white stucco walls and even white concrete roofs are wonderful buffers to the Florida heat.
The details and the rhythm of the architecture is inspiring and I look forward to sharing the beauty with you on my next post. Until then, happy thanksgiving.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain
I recently saw this ad in a building magazine. After this very manly and confident looking contractor makes this proclamation, the company, at the bottom of the ad, promises to help deliver on the contractor’s wishes. I suppose and hope that the point of the ad is to encourage us to work smarter, however I fear that there is a character value being promoted that is not a value we want to encourage.
Everybody desires to work smarter. This is a mantra of our age. We’ve been told over and over that one key to “making it“ is not just working harder but working smarter. The goal, we’re told, is to efficiently use the hours of a given day to their fullest and wisest potential. Ideally, when we work smarter we are rewarded for it. But if the goal is to actually work less and also make more, I would argue that this goes against a long-standing American value of a hard day’s work for an honest wage.
Somehow in the last couple of decades we have come to believe we deserve to work less and make more. It’s part of the something for nothing, win the lottery, thinking. Yet even while I toy with this idea of smart work, I would not go so far to pay my employees more or higher wages for less hours. I would not tell a client I was going to work less, but I needed them to pay me more, it’s absurd. Why do we think we have the right to work less and make more?
There is great value in hard work. There is joy in crafting and working hard to build something beautiful. Historically, a credo in architecture was that to have honest citizens then the architecture should be honest as well. Build buildings with integrity and you create a community that will demonstrate integrity. There was a direct correlation between what we build and our character. It starts with hard work and honest pay.
The Timeless House, my upcoming book is in the final stages of editing and design. The goal of the book is to help people build houses that are timeless and beautiful and that will last for generations. If the contractors of our houses today only want to work less and earn more, we may have a difficult time building timeless houses. The reason a timeless house lasts longer and is more sustainable is because of hard work and great design. Not less work for more money.
We need our houses to communicate ideals and values that will enliven and enrich our communities. We need citizens who exhibit character and integrity. It many ways these values start with our houses.