As I explore again the world of architecture and design that once left me disillusioned, it is the practitioners who are motivated by love that resonate with me the most.

Love and creativity are both great ways of being fully present (see my previous post).  Creative people often practice a playful and un-task-focussed exploration of the everyday world in front of them.   They find beauty in things that other miss.  Thomas Heatherwick, a genius of our time, grew up like this.  He talks a lot about ‘giving love’ when he talks about design.

At the Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, I was heartened to see again and again an emphasis on the experience of the users of architecture.  An embracing of the potential for every individual in every present moment to shape the architecture rather than have it imposed on them – to both respond to and act upon it.

This is love in design.  The unloving architect imposes his will; the loving one makes space for the freedom and creativity of others to be expressed.

My favourite example was Diébédo Francis Kéré’s installation.  I already liked the sound of him when I read about his background and his social conscience.  I warmed to his installation when I saw it was built from honeycombed plastic slabs designed to be decorated by visitors poking long coloured straws wherever they liked.

Diebedo Francis Kere's Installation

It was a mess.  But it had a beauty that can’t be shown in a photo.  I decided to sit and take it in.  To do so I had to damage some of the straws that previous visitors had covered the honeycombed seat with.  I went ahead and did this, to make the seat a seat again.  Then others started to do the same on the remaining seats.  The space was reclaimed once more for the present moment – no longer hostage to the interventions of past visitors.

I was amazed at how the experience of the place settled deeper into me when I sat there with no agenda.  I saw patches of light and shade.  Patterns in the straws.  The joy of children.  Shafts of light above me.   I felt the building.   And what I felt was mine.

Shaft of lightI wondered, in all my ambition to learn and achieve at architecture school, did I ever, once, allow myself to feel a building?  (Not to touch it – to feel it.)  I don’t think I did.  I was too busy trying to design stuff and learn stuff.  I missed out, and what I designed and learned was less as a result.

This installation also provided separate honeycombed platforms for the visitors to create their own artworks in straws.  I made a kind of splayed rainbow, then something as opposite to that as I could.Rainbow

Woven towerI said in the previous post that a sunlit cup of tea was the most beautiful thing I’d looked at that day.  I didn’t mean to put down the exhibition.  It just so happened that the cup of tea, at that particular moment, in that particular light, was the most beautiful thing.

If I ever returned to architecture, I would like to be the kind of architect who is happy for all his buildings to be surpassed in beauty by the chance, unplanned, imperfect moments of real life.