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The Firm

Oct 2012|News from de Reus

The Art of Placemaking – A Humanistic Process Defined by Reality

The term “placemaking” entered the design lexicon in the 1970s to describe what sets certain built environments apart from others. The concept of placemaking elevated our awareness and helped us to articulate subjective design elements that contribute meaningfully to a rich felt experience of a building, landscape, or community. Today, placemaking is a term that still holds deep relevance.

Whether you are contemplating a new resort or home, the imperial palaces of Kyoto, or the ancient villages of the Polynesians, to design and build a “place” is essentially a humanistic process. These are our dwellings. Placemaking is not a mystery or luxury, but a reality. Long before Cartesian thinking gave us dualistic and comparative perspective, ancient cultures were creating shelter and other meaningful structures using both pragmatic and spiritual beliefs. We are still drawn to many of these locations as living testaments to the sensuality and distinctive spirit of a place.

In an era that exploits architecture as commodity, there is an undue emphasis on the immediate gratification of sculptural form as a brand; this results in a built environment that is largely banal and uninspired. The aesthetic quality of a building is a principle that is vital to the placemaking philosophy. Thus, our work is a counterpoint to the current trend of architecture as brand. Rather, we are interested in what the land will reveal to the design, as well as the natural influences of light and wind, the emotive nature of our materials, and a keen sense of craftsmanship and detail. We do not see our design as abstract novelties, or as objects, but as works that are infused with an intended emotional quality.

Because our work has reverence for the architecture that has preceded us, our interest in distilling the essence of a place is based on achieving a sense of continuity while permeating our design with a relevant contemporary context. We recognize that good design not only has respect for tradition; it is also evolutionary and adaptive. While design trends laud style (by nature fickle and temporary), our work hews to substance. We seek to strike that fine balance which allows us to bridge the demands of a fast-paced, rapidly expanding world with time-honored principles.

We have been fortunate to work in beautiful tropical locations with passionate clients and talented collaborators. The final design of a home, resort, or building never emerges from a single vision or theory, and there are many contributing influences embedded in the built work. Opportunities are revealed during the design process and the integration of materials and structure, as well as the input of the client and other designers. The completeness of the vision in the final form belies the rigor of intent applied to the architectural process: a process that lets us find meaning in the circumstances at hand by turning our awareness to the intricate interdependence of nature, human activity, and the qualities we seek to evoke.

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