A colleague of mine very kindly alerted me to this interview with Glenn Murcutt, an Australian architect I’m familiar with, saying I would identify with it. He was right and I must say it’s set in motion a lot of thoughts about Architecture that I’ve kept buried for some time.
This passage in particular where (as far as I can surmise) Murcutt explains why he chose to do small houses instead of big buildings and his refreshing honesty on the difficulties he faced along the way, continues to fascinate me. Unfortunately as the original article is in Spanish, I could only rely on Google Chrome’s somewhat passable translation:
All designers who knew designing faster than me. Made decisions very effectively. And I could not. New projects made me nervous. I caused anxiety. Visited the site during the day. During the night. On sunny days to see the angles of incidence of the sun and when the wind blew. Smelled the earth, its water level checked, geology. I feel much respect for the earth and before going to stick my hand I have to auscultarla. A house in the landscape should improve and if it does not improve due, at least, assimilated to the system should be as little as possible. In 1973 I won an award that allowed me to travel for four months. I arrived in Barcelona. I was a young man without work. Only had doubts and fears. And Coderch I spent a day and half. It was almost an old man and he said that each new project you lose sleep. That freed me. Upon returning to Australia began to discuss with the architect that I had used. I decided to become independent. It is just one thing: recession, unemployment and two children. It proved to be an optimal time. I learned to live frugally. And then I happened to believe the best architecture comes from frugality.
I’ve decided not to try to edit this extract in any way to make it more grammatically accurate. Besides it’s kinda funny and poignant how Murcutt (an English speaker) has had his words first translated to Spanish for this article only to have it mangled by a computer but that even then the truth of his words still stand out, maybe even more so.
What’s so inspiring about how he describes his work is how much I relate to them. I too often struggle with feelings of inadequacy whenever I become aware that I’m working at a much slower pace than my colleagues. A lot of times designers are expected to have very clear expectations of how they want their designs to look, to know exactly what looks good and doesn’t. I’m not always so certain… but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me.
The other thing that I like about him is that his words and thoughts are instantly accessible. Most architects like to speak in either a deep philosophical way or with delusions of grandeur (aka, I know better than you) which I find are quite alienating to those not architecturally trained. But I detect non of that in Murcutt’s tone or his other numerous interviews which I have slowly been making my way through. He does however despise intensely architecture that does not take the local context into consideration (Modern architecture) and believes strongl that buildings should be ‘breathable’ and should only be designed with a deep understanding of the culture and landscape in which they are sited. He also paints a different picture of an architect, not as a noble artisan but more as a rugged lover of humanity.
I can’t describe how much his words have transformed and redefined how I see myself as an architect this past week. It’s been truly phenomenal!