By tapping into the beliefs, values, and cosmologies of our clients, and setting intentions based on these values, our architectural designs take on the imprint of these cosmic musings as well as whole, new levels of vitality. -Austin Hill Shaw, 3 Lights Design
Architectural design as a grand opportunity for co-creation
I am eternally grateful for my architectural design clients and my fellow designers at 3 Lights Design.
They are the ones who allow me to put the experience of being creative, of connecting with the world and affecting it in a meaningful way, into action again and again. And through getting to know our clients’ deepest beliefs and values and translating those beliefs and values into plans, sections, and elevations that eventually become structures, they are the ones that give me the felt sense of making the world a better place on a regular basis.
The architectural design of the kitchen of a photographer and chef
Here’s an example from a recent project, a recent project where the video above was filmed.
In the fall of 2015, we got a phone call from some friends of another architectural design client. The husband was a professional photographer and the wife a professional chef. They both worked out of their home, both enjoyed food and cooking, but had a very small and challenging kitchen that was a source of stress for them both.
The wife loved cooking, but, do to the kitchen’s limited size, felt isolated from the rest of the family. And, when she invited one of her kids to share the joy of cooking, she immediately felt cramped and unable to drop into any sort of flow state.
The husband loved aesthetics and ability of art to “stop time” and through stopping time, “extend the life of the viewer”. His main concern was to avoid creating a new kitchen at a subpar level, a kitchen that took away from the beauty of the rest of the home. Built in the 1930’s, and adorned with beautiful details, materials, and lighting, including elegant curves in the entrance, while the current kitchen was small, it also fit in with the proportions of other parts of the house.
How then to combine the differing desire of the couple into an architectural design that worked for them both?
Towards a whole, new approach to architectural design
Conventional architectural design is the marriage of two things:
- form, how a project looks and feels
- function, how projects aids the occupants in carrying forth the tasks of living in a good way
At 3 Lights Design, though, we’ve identified a third component that is often missing from contemporary design: meaning.
Whereas most architectural design prior to the modern world were imbued with meaning, with the secularization of our daily lives, meaning, cosmology, and the sense of the sacred have been lost to a great degree.
I believe this is a HUGE problem.
Why? As human beings, with conscious self-awareness, we have a deep desire to experience our lives as meaningful, to have either a narrative of our lives that makes sense or to have a felt sense that we are part of something much larger than ourselves.
Though architectural design projects can be some of the largest creations of human beings (just think about stadiums, bridges, and skyscrapers, or the planning behind entire cities, for example) they still are tiny in the scale of the cosmos.
Not only that, nothing lasts forever. Everything is constantly in a process of arising, abiding, and ceasing, including the homes and workplaces and cityscapes where the majority of humans live out their lives.
By tapping into the beliefs, values, and cosmologies of our clients, and setting intentions based on these values, our architectural designs take on the imprint of these cosmic musings as well as a whole, new levels of vitality.
That is what 3 Lights Design to offer the world: a whole, new way of approaching design, one that tethers our seemingly grand yet ephemeral projects to the greater human narrative and winds of eternity.
Paradox leading to fantastic architectural design
Back to the kitchen design. Using our three catagories of form (aesthetics), function (how it works), and meaning (intent), here’s how we framed and carried the project.
Intentions: A family of four on a tight budget in a beautiful Spanish style home in Redwood Heights District of Oakland needed a new kitchen. The husband was a professional photographer and the wife a professional chef. The husband’s main concern was avoiding creating something that took away from the aesthetics of their already beautiful home. The wife was wanting a more functional kitchen that not only allowed her to do her job better, but also to share her love of cooking with her two young children. The kitchen was so small, however, and the counter and storage space so limited, the she felt cramped having anyone else but just her there, leading her to feel isolated as well.
Functional Results: The wife provided us with a list of all the cooking utensils she needed on hand, as well as storage and counter space requirements. We removed the wall separating the space into to, and relocated the pantry in a more easily accessible place. A prominent peninsula in the middle served as much need prep station, as well as a place for their children to hang out and talk. We sacrificed a window for more counterspace and storage, but replaced the lost natural light by enlarging the window over the nearby sink. The wife’s home office was also upgraded with additional desk space and storage underneath. We made several 3D models to ensure that we had indeed accounted for the wife’s equipment as well as making sure it functioned as best as possible
Aesthetic Results: The husband had this to say to the team, “my role as a photographer is to extend the life of the viewer by stopping time.” What he meant that when we see something beautiful, we get out of the rat race of time, and simply start being, which is timeless. We mixed and matched different colored prefab cabinets to keep the cost down, but added nice hardware to give it a personal touch. Moroccan tile work, and a beautiful wood floor really made the project sing.
In the end, the wife had this to say about 3 Lights Design’s attention to detail, “I’m so impressed how you heard all the little silly things I was saying and got it into a picture!!!” For us, the “silly little things” are everything. That’s how we named this project.