The Obama Library's first public renderings were unveiled this week by the architects Tod Williams Billie Tsien. I have long admired their dedication and craft.
Whenever I see their names I remember a speech that Billie Tsien gave at my graduation from PennDesign. It was moving, passionate, and full of optimism. Afterwards I thanked her for the inspirational and energizing talk. The funny thing is, I don't remember a word she said but I remember the FEELING.
That is what architecture is about for me. It is not what the walls are made of or what color faucets you have. Architecture's power is in the feeling it imparts. It hits a nerve in a deeper part of us. It is an atmosphere that I seek to form in each project. Even if you walk away not being able to recall distinct elements (as I couldn't recall any particular statements from that speech), just being touched and having that experience is enough.
If I had my hands on Chris Rock's notebook, could I get on stage and kill? I doubt it. There is more to it than what is on paper. The most common question on Houzz photos is usually "What color paint is that?", which leads me to think a lot of people do imagine that knowing the components could generate the same result. It isn't so. There is something in Rock's delivery and attitude that is part of the comedy, there is something in Tsien's passion and experience that is part of what made her talk so memorable, and I like to think, there is something in my work which goes beyond the sum of its parts to make a work that moves you.