“Wholeness, life, has a way of being always simple. In most cases, this simplicity shows itself in a geometrical simplicity and purity, which has a tangible geometric form.”Christopher Alexander, p. 226, Book One, The Nature of Order
“Pieces were colored – beautiful colors, often worked into the wood (not paint), and coded, yellow, blue, red, green, etc., each type of furniture was color-coded to its function. Yet they were always severe. This severity was the very essence of the inner calm…”Christopher Alexander, referring to Shaker made artifacts, p. 227, Book One, The Nature of Order
Inner calm is a rare commodity these days, so rare that I fear we have nearly lost the ability to create it anew. As architects, we are continually bombarded with the latest ideas of style, conceptual posturing and architectural fashion to the point that our design decisions are rarely guided by the wholeness that surrounds us. To gain recognition from our peers and the architecture media as ‘contemporary’ or ‘conceptually sophisticated’, we fall into the trap of echoing forms ‘acclaimed’ as leading edge.
In The Nature of Order, Alexander says of inner calm, “…it is only inner simplicity, true simplicity of heart, which creates it.”
What is simplicity of heart? I don’t recall learning how to achieve such a state in architecture school, in fact it was quite the opposite. Nor do I see the subject being broached in the architectural journals. If I don’t have simplicity of heart, how can I make it appear in a building? Here is the core of what we, as architects, need to come to grips with: There must be a strong resonance between the heart and the built environment. Simplicity and Inner Calm is a deep, settled resolution of conflicting forces, a long, low and reviving breath, a contentment born of wholeness.
It is a spiritual question as much as it is one of form.