This may surprise some of you who know me, but as a child I was not terribly into sweets and candy. Sure, like any kid I would gorge myself on Halloween with fist fulls of whatever I could unwrap in 5 seconds or less, but that doesn’t really count. When in Rome, and all that.
But, one thing I’ve always had a soft spot for are cookies. This has continued straight into adult-hood. It’s really more of an obsession. And I like my cookies the way God intended – chocolate chip with a tall glass of whole milk. Not that 2% crap your wife is always trying to cram down your throat cause she says it has “less fat”. :-\ Good old fashioned whole milk and some nice homemade chocolate chip cookies. Ah, the simple pleasures of life.
And I think a better expression would be the pleasures of life are simple. Profound, no? And architecture, for me, should be like a chocolate chip cookie – a simple and honest expression of it’s ingredients. It doesn’t need bright colors, or flashing lights (be a little odd on a cookie), or fake decoration to be good. It simply needs to state what it is and be that. The best architecture has always been simple. The great Roman buildings were essentially a study in multiple posts and lintels. The Egyptians took the simplest and strongest geometric form and exploited it to monumental proportion. They didn’t need a lot of pomp and circumstance in order to make their architecture great. It was great in it’s simplicity.
I would dare say even Baroque and Romanesque and Renaissance architecture, at their core, were simple and honest and therefore good. When you look at a plan of a great cathedral or a manor home or a civic building, what do you see? You see a simple expression of form. Rectilinear and regular. Proportions were consistent, materials – in terms of structure – were modest, and the buildings as a whole took maximum advantage of their surrounding environment. Now, yes they were covered in all manner of decoration and frivolity (I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use that word), but honest in design nonetheless.
Moving on to modern architecture the comparison is obvious. I mean, the chocolate chip cookie IS modern architecture. It’s structure and it’s substance are visible at all times. There is nothing hidden, no pretense, no covering up of the materials used, no artificial flavors…ok, I may be taking the metaphor a little too far, but you get my point.
In architecture, as in life, those things that hold most true to stand the test of time are honest, simple and straightforward.