LINES ON THE PAPER
Lines drafted on the paper, forming borders, pictures at standstill. Lines define the scale for the emptiness. But I am not interested in lines. I am not interested in details. I am interested in emptiness, its soul and character. Every line I draw carries a huge responsibility and power. It cuts through the space, divides it into pieces, takes a small fragment of infinity and gives meaning to it. Meaning in four dimensions.
My motivation to mold the emptiness is to create places for people to live, experience life with its tears and laughter. When we draft cities, urban scenes, we create sequences of spaces where life moves in the space in between. Everything is experienced in the movement. Even if we were to sit down and wait, time moves on anyway. There is no standstill space.
Rooms and houses are cut out from the infinity to be spaces with their own character. I see houses like us human beings, with their own habits and whimsies. The most important characteristic factor is the space. The space is the soul. Borders, walls and details are like the signs left by life, education, childhood, life’s lessons. They give the color and flavor, but they cannot change the soul, the space. Sometimes they can blur the view, sometimes make it better and stronger. Space is from our heart, details are from our brains. Sometimes the space even tells the details. Then we just have to listen.
When we design an object – a lighting fixture, chair, spoon, whatever – we should concentrate more on the effects this form would cause to surrounding space, to the emptiness around. A designed object has an effect on how we approach it, how we behave close to it. At the same time, a new designed object forces the emptiness to bend away; it will reserve a certain space around it, take its share from infinity. We can mold and effect a grander space with a small object if we realize its power to take over the emptiness around.
SIGNS AND TRACES
Spaces are experienced with all our senses. Years ago I started to concentrate more on light. Quite soon I noticed that in order to understand the light I have to concentrate on darkness. The same thing with architecture and space. I turned my eyes from the material part to emptiness. Material elements just give meaning to emptiness. Then starts the interplay between light and material and darkness and emptiness. Light forming the emptiness, shadows painting the material. An endlessly moving play.
But something was missing. I noticed it while watching this play in my mind. I did not hear anything. There had to be a sound. When you start to concentrate on sound you will find silence. Movement meeting material will cause sound, sound telling about many different things: speed, materials, weight. With its echo it can tell about scale, the size of the emptiness. Sound gives a meaning and the character for silence.
Every time has its own storytellers. These storytellers can be extremely ordinary things, bound to its own time. Hundreds of years ago the sound of a horse carriage was an urban sound. Then came cars. Nowadays I think that in urban space skateboards are one of the new storytellers. The skateboard’s character is based on movement. While it is moving it tells with the sound from its wheels the story of different urban materials. The sound of asphalt, the sound of stone paving, the sound of concrete and sand. The sound will tell the story of speed as well. Then when you start to listen, it can tell you more. It can teach you a lesson of contrasts; the sound of a skateboard in the quiet night or during the heaviest rush hour. All the lessons are around us. We just have to be humble enough, sensitive enough to find them.
STORY OF A PLACE
Each place has stories. Usually it is enough if you can read and listen. People create questions when they cannot see the answers. Each place carries the answers, options, possibilities. Quite often we just have to be humble and sensitive and read the place and it will tell the answer. This does not mean that the answer will be something just merely continuing the local form language or tradition. Sometimes the place knows that it needs something new to take it further, to have progress.
Every place has taken its own share of infinity. It can be closed, holding the space in it, it can be open and fragile, letting the space flow through it, or it can be object-like, which affects with its own mass the surrounding space. Or it can be a combination of all of these – possibilities have no boundaries. It is important to realize that we observers, we flow through the space in time. Space is like a river with peaceful bays and strong streams and currents. Shores give restrictions to the whole stream, small stones cause an interruption to steady flow. Just as the water follows gravity, space flows with the time.
Each moment leaves its traces, layers on the face of a city, wrinkles of sorrow or wisdom, traces of laughter and joy. We have to be brave and take our responsibility to add our layer, to draft the lines of our times. Sometimes it is wise to honor the existing traces, sometimes it is time to proudly leave our heritage to those coming after us.
Architecture is easy. We just have to see what already exists and then rewrite it through our own experience with joy and humbleness. Sometimes we succeed in following our instincts, sometimes we are blinded by our brains. However, architecture has the mercy of being mortal. Time will cover our traces, buildings and cities will grow old and vanish. It is the path through the times that counts. We can build new stones for the paths that matter and that will carry us further. Weaker stones will be forgotten. What else is there than the journey. Enjoy your journey.
22 April 2004