From the Archives...

MG Taylor Philosophy and Practice of Architecture

[Matt Taylor Journal pages 44, 45, December 30, 1978, ]
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Editor's Note:

The Fourth Domain of the 7 Domains® Model is Environment. One of the MG Taylor maxims is, "structure wins." This applies in particular to the field of architecture and the work and living environments created through that art and science. Most organizational transformation is doomed from the outset because the culture represented by the built environment reinforces an old way of work and thought, and inhibits the expression of collaborative group genius and individual excellence as well. Or, the breadth and depth of the design is severely attenuated through misunderstanding the fact that architecture mirrors and creates the human condition. So if we design and inhabit corporate ghettos, palaces or fortresses, we can expect to reinforce behaviors that coincide with these forms. The Transition Manager must cultivate an incisive understanding of how the physical environment promotes or thwarts the goals and vision of the transformation--the organization's ability to continuously respond to and create change in a healthy way. He or she must add to that a strategic capacity to facilitate the recreation of the environment so that it aligns with and enables the vision.

Further comments by the editor are indicated in maroon italics.


Meaning and Attributes of Architecture
Architecture is the objectification of the values humans hold essential to living: these values are made concrete by building and using the structures that form our environment.

Architecture has three attributes. (An attribute is that which is essential to a system--without which the system either ceases to be or becomes something else.) It shelters a human's life; produces an efficient arrangement of space and utilities; and expresses the best of human life (the values that make life possible and worth while).

Architecture distinguishes between existence and living. The attributes of shelter and arrangement are primarily utilitarian. The attribute of expression is primarily aesthetic. All three must be harmoniously integrated, one with the other.

Architecture is created by transforming problems of shelter and arrangement into the expression of an explicit lifestyle, aesthetically practicing specific values. Utilitarian concerns--bricks, boards, aluminum, glass, steel--are the medium of the architectural art.

Architecture is the sound track to a person's life; expressing, leading, teaching, sometimes pushing--generally providing embellishment, highlight, focus, punctuation to that life and its meaning.

The three attributes must be in harmony, but they do exist in a natural hierarchy. The structure, or shelter, may allow a few feet one way or another and still properly shelter. Arrangement may allow a few inches (for most concerns) and still be efficient. Expression is usually a hairline concern: aesthetics is the fine tuning of the system.

The function of architecture is to create a proper environment for human beings according to their nature as a race, and as individuals. To function, architecture must be an expression of life, as well as a shelter for it. In a masterpiece work, one can find no element that does not reflect all three attributes of architecture as one.

The Way of Life
Lifestyle and use is the basis of all architectural theory and practice. In art, the artist eliminates the insignificant by focusing on what is important (to the artist). The art of architecture allows nothing to become unimportant by making every action within the environment an act of living art. This is done by expressing the essence of those values deemed important to life in concrete form, and by practicing those values through creative ritual and ceremony.

Architecture and the architect are not only expressing the values of a culture but creating the physical environment that alters, reinforces, expands or negates those values.

Architectural philosophy cannot start with design philosophy but must constantly address the focus: what is (can be) a human be-ing; what is (are) the proper life styles for human beings?

Great architecture is a self-aware process.

Scope of Architectural Concerns
An architect (master builder) "controls" all five areas [of the diagram shown below]. The traditional architectural practice deals primarily with 2 and 3 [design solution and contract documents], and has some minor involvement with 4 [construction and fabrication], and very rarely with 5 [lifestyle and use].

The design solution is usually controlled by the developer and/or the patron. It's also controlled directly by laws, rules, taxes, and social traditions. The typical architect is in fact an architectural designer.

For real architecture to be produced, a comprehensive synthesis must exist between these five areas, tying the specialties together to form a unique system, and close the whole cycle.

[see related information in the Design Build Use model]

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