ruminations about architecture and design

Monday, November 10, 2014

richard wills


When I was a two week old draftsman at Royal Barry Wills I remember how Richard came over to look at my work. I was drawing plans for renovations to an unexceptional looking Colonial house. Richard looked at the elevation I had taped to my drafting table.
 "Put a chimney on it," he said.
"Where?" I asked.
"Right in the center of the roof, like this." He reached down with his pencil and sketched the block of a huge chimney on the roof.
"But there's no fireplace or anything below," I protested.
"It'll be fake," he said, and turned and walked away, "I have no shame."

That remains one of my most important lessons in architecture.The house needed a chimney for aesthetic reasons. The cult of functionality, of honesty, of the application of narrow science in design, cannot overcome the emotional impact of an architectural gesture. Why did the house need a chimney? What makes us human?

Richard said on more than one occasion that design is one piece. The inside and the outside have to be worked together and there are few fixed rules. Historical reference is useful, but reproductions rarely work.

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