I wrote this essay for a studio class, as part of my Master of Architecture degree. It took multiple revisions and the entire semester to write one page. The themes in my other statements and my artwork continue here, but through architecture.
Why Build Simply?
How we gather together the complexities of location, site, and space to create a building matters. How we build matters. Building simply can lead to simple or complex results but is never simplistic because it contends with complexity (whereas simplism ignores complexity, resulting in complication). By modifying the imperative build with the guidance of simply, to build simply, we avoid the pitfalls of oversimplification and complication.
Martin Heidegger, in his essay Building Dwelling Thinking, posits that gathering is necessary to dwelling, which then leads to building. Location, site, and space are necessarily complex, due to the nature of nature and Heidegger’s concept of the fourfold (earth, sky, divinities, and mortals). Gathering is the assembly of these complexities. When we gather the fourfold into a space, we then are capable of dwelling in that space, and then can build. Heidegger states that we have allowed the meaning of dwelling to fall silent in our lives and summarizes that mortals must learn to dwell, lest they always be fundamentally homeless.
“Man is insofar as he dwells.” Just as how we build matters, it follows that how we dwell matters, and hence “the manner in which mortals are on the earth” matters. If we lack in any aspect of how we are, in how we live, we equally lack in how we dwell and thus in how we build. When we build in the absence of dwelling, the structures are buildings, but they are not architecture. Architecture occurs when we are dwelling, when we gather the fourfold.
We must, then, attend to how we are, our being, and our becoming. Our lives may lack in many ways but the most primal and overarching way is dwelling, as it is the most closely tied to our being. We can build in a way that declares how we choose to be on the earth, choosing not to oversimplify nor to complicate, choosing to live with complexity and simplicity, gathering the fourfold. We can choose to build simply, not just to build. When we do so, we allow building once again to belong to dwelling, finding that whatever our lives lack can be restored by building simply.