To say that this week has been busy is an understatement. As I sit here in the hospital admiring my beautiful bride and newborn son, I am drawn back to the importance of people. I become more conscious of how hobbies, careers, and interests consume a good portion of our lives, of my life, and of our thoughts and time.
Trying to craft a singular organizing theme for this past week’s endeavors is difficult and the theme remains elusive, even as I place these letters. In brief, I read about intuition and the rational process by John Lyle, the necessity for drawing by Michael Graves, a few pages from Francis D. K. Ching's, Design Drawing, a short piece by Gregory Bateson (who by the way is a systems theorist in the counseling world) titled Why Do Frenchmen?, and participated in a studio workshop on human scale and catalog of postures. Needless to say, there is much to digest and synthesize. Here we go.
Beginning the week in studio I began looking at the world, once again, in relation to human scale. I chose three areas to relate to. 1. a table for sitting, 2. a path comfortable for two, 3. an area of monumental scale and one of intimate scale. In this workshop I started relating my body to my environment. I judged the environment with my proportion and those who I watched experiencing the same environments. I paid attention to what proportions make one feel comfortable, what place one in a position of unease, and why. I also began to use my body to measure in case I am in the field without a rule of some sort. Becoming more aware of how my proportions helped me to better tune into which designs worked better and why.
I found myself really intrigued with one particular portion of this assignment. When I began to work through my view of what was considered a monumental space I once again was thrust into the reality that people conceive ideas and vocabulary differently. This is HUGE in design. The most current design that I can think of is that of Frank Gehry. His design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial has caused quite a bit of conflict. Much of this conflict is centered on each person’s perception of how to best represent President Eisenhower.
Design is language.
Gregory Bateson's short story 'Why Do French Men?" is about a young girl who struggles to understand why French Men wave their arms when they talk. Her father patiently makes points and works with his daughter to 'understand' their language, as they speak it.
My favorite reading this week was by John T. Lyle. The Alternating Current of Design Process. It is in this world that I feel most comfortable and at home. The world of design. In this peer reviewed journal article Lyle dissects the design process. He briefly gives history to the subject and how design was dominated in the 30's, 50's, and 60's by 'functional architecture'. I always think of modernist designs. He then explains how the mind alternates between the left and right sides, or the intuitive and analytical sides. One proposing, the other side deposing.
There is a struggle in that age to quantify everything. Everything became scientific, everything was challenged and formulated. Inspiration went out the window and analytical validity came in the front door. Lyle proceeds to say that the process of design is much more intricate than that, however. (In my notes I wrote, 'Postmodern deconstructionists to modern paradigms'-wish I could remember why.)
Make believe. "The human mind does not work in such a linear, sequential way, and rarely does a design process proceed in such an orderly manner." (Lyle) I love that Lyle makes a case for intuition (make believe). One of my favorite things to do with my four year old is to make believe with her. She has started to weigh out reality by this point, yet is so very curious of the possibilities that might exist. I recall my most recent attempt to convince here that the fairies from the Tinkerbell movies live atop the mountain behind us. This was on the way to the top in our van. Her eyes grew wide and her interest was commanded immediately. She was trying to work out the reality or this with the possibilities. She was being rational and at the same time wanting to make believe.
Finally, the writing by Graves, lessons by Ching, catalog of postures, and regulating lines are somewhat similar. Each of these speak to me in how I (we) see the world around us. "Seeing is a pattern-seeking process" (Ching). In representation, we all need to learn to feel our way along, to find an objects main gesture.
I made attempts this week through sketching at finding main gestures. 1 drawing of my wife shows her reclining as she trains her mind on each contraction. I hoped to focus in on the bodies’ composition as it focuses. The second drawing was of my wife sitting. The gesture here was to show how being heavy with child pulls the body. How the child settles into the mother and gives an appearance of fatigue. The third drawing is of a painting in the hospital monitoring room before we were admitted. I hoped to show gestures of depth, alternating light, and texture. The fourth image is not of my creating but of the heartbeat and contraction monitor. I simply found it interesting that there was rhythm here. It created a composition. A steady heartbeat, a flowing and increasing rate of contractions. It was a language for communicating to the nurses. It also communicated to us as we sat and waited for the next contraction to rise.
Language. Communication. Drawings. Design.
So many things communicate meaning. Lines on a paper, gestures by a body, movements in the land. That is the central point for this week.
Design conveys meaning.