Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Bruce Goff: "As an architect..."


Architect Bruce Goff was a leader in what's been called "the other modern movement," i.e., the practice of organic architecture, pioneered by the likes of Goff, Frank Lloyd Wright, Aaron Green, and Walter Burley Griffin -- and after which Organon Architecture (in large part) bases its name.

Bavinger House, Norman, Oklahoma, 1950-1955, no longer extant -
“the most amazing work of residential architecture I had ever encountered”
says Robert Morris (Photo by 
Anthony V. Thompson).

Goff wrote this piece below in 1978, four years before his death, for an exhibition of his work “Coda: As an Architect” essentially summarises his life as an architect and what a work of architecture is -- based on his expectation that a close relationship existed between all forms of artistic activity and life.

They seem like ideals by which to live and work ...

Coda: As an architect

I do not solicit clients they come to me as they would to any professional man for specific professional services.

I do not work for clients…I work with them.

There has never been a building built before by anyone else or myself, that my client should have; we must work it out together. I forget what other architects and I have previously done so we can start as freshly as possible.

I must be sensitive to my client’s needs, wants and budget. I do not build upon a site…I build with it as part of its region, climate and environment.

I must be free from narrow-minded prejudices regarding materials, methods, colours, textures, forms, ornament, structure, and spatial determinates; all such aesthetic and utilitarian matters as felt and understood by the clients and myself must be freely disciplined by me, as an architect, into grammar from which will be composed the whole complete architectural concept.

There shall be no starting with a predetermined over-all shape or form in mind; no subdividing it off into rooms cluttered with furnishings…with the clients and their lives squeezed and compressed within. This is usual, and as usual in no more than the usual container for the use of humans!

Rather, the whole thing will start with accommodating people and their ways of life, and grow organically from within outward thus becoming its own shapes and forms.

If I give the client only what he asks for, he may be temporarily satisfied with it, for a while, but eventually he will just get used to it. As an architect I should give him what he wants… and more. If it is a work of architecture, the client will continue to grow aesthetically in such an environment…therefore there must be a continuing surprise and mystery beyond what he initially understood to hold his interest and to be a continuing, rewarding setting for his lifetime.

Architecture is the only art which we can actually physically inhabit! It is often our desire to enter or take part in a work of art in order to make it ours, thus in literature we involve ourselves with it while we read…in music we must participate in it, as we listen, if we are to understand it. More and more we like sculpture to be large enough so we can be spatially involved with it. We project ourselves imaginatively into paintings and other visual arts. We can be happy adapting ourselves to pre-existent art works, but those created for and with us as a part of them seem most alive and vital to us.

As an architect I know that technology and superb building techniques are necessarily a part of all of this, and we must be more aware of the ones we already have and of those new ones we need, but good building, in itself is not enough to be called good architecture, however, architecture is good building plus!

An architect’s works are personal and impersonal…timely and timeless; having a license to practice does not mean, in itself, one is an architect any more than having a driver’s license means one is a good driver. This is what separates the boys from the men.

The real architects are the young ones, regardless of age, with continuing enthusiasm, imagination, industry, inventiveness, curiosity, and dedication to architecture for all people as their reason for being.

Anything needing to be built, small or large, simple or complex should and can be architecture. We have many more people wanting this than we have architects able to supply their demands. We must never forget that architecture is for all of us.

As an architect, I know that our works often make some people mad and some glad.

The creative young are intrigued, inspired, and stimulated by them, as are those who use them. By such examples we continue to renew faith in the creative spirit and its potentials, thus, we are also teachers, but not academic.

I have never sought publication or publicity, preferring to let the work earn this for Itself if it is worthy, and so I too continue to “maintain my amateur standing” as  a beginner, beginning again and again in the continuous present…

Bruce Goff, Architect, April 1978

Thursday, July 20, 2023

"The Need for Therapeutic Architecture in Today’s Society"

"With the rise in mental illness there is an increasingly strong need for therapeutic spaces," writes architect Abigail Freed. "Therapeutic architecture," she argues "lessens the need for the typical patient-doctor relationship. The space itself becomes the 'therapeutic apparatus'."

What a fascinating idea!

I've been told by some clients that our initial design interview is "a little like psycho-analysis." Architect Richard Neutra, a friend of Sigmund Freud, made that connection explicit. Explains Freed:
He required his clients to keep diaries and subjected them to a lengthy interview process. These tactics were Neutra’s way of gaining insight into their daily lives, their conscious and unconscious desire, their habits, their personal and interpersonal struggles and triumphs, as well as their deepest thoughts and feelings. Neutra believed that “architecture should operate like psychotherapy by assisting clients to satisfy unconscious psychical desires” and that the architect “operates on the basis of an emotional dynamic with a client developed through analysis of childhood experience.” From this process he felt fully equipped to create a physiologically curative design.”

 Bethany Morse outlines his four-fold "biorealist" approach:

Abigail Freed outlines some of the "design tactics" Neutra used to fulfil the brief he gave himself, to better connect the "subject" to their environment and "imprint" upon them better mental habits.

One of the most notable features “of Neutra’s work during the 1950’s was an intense concentration on dismantling conventional barriers between inside and out.” He achieved this effect through the implementation of various tactics such as transparent glass, “spider legs” and mitred glass corners.
    In all of Neutra’s post war houses there is an emphasis on the glass exterior.

    In the Rourke house (1949) “the outside world intrudes through large glass panels. These are not simply picture windows that frame views or glass walls that structure the house as in traditional… instead the glass window/wall is actually a door that moves and permits movement. The wide overhang of the roof creates a zone of shadow attenuating and extending the boundary of the interior. The overhangs that all but eliminate reflection further reinforce the indeterminate simultaneity of enclosure and exposure. The glass becomes not transparent but invisible to leave the house unbounded.”


    Neutra used his Spider Legs (pictured above) “to collapse the normally primary architectural distinction between exteriority and interiority”. The spider leg is a single beam or fascia that “fascia stretches far beyond the edge of the roof at a major corner and turns down the reach the ground”. By displacing the corners of rooms and “in some cases the very structure of the house such normally stabilising architectural elements are indeterminately inside and outside at the same time.”


One of the most celebrated features of his architecture is the corner where one glass plane meets the other. At this corner the floor to ceiling glass meets at a mitred edge to produce a glazed environment of intense spatial ambiguity. Here there is a distinct oscillation between opacity and transparency, interiority and exteriority, solidity and fluidity and it generates perceptual confusion. Here the “glass and frame perform to both produce and suppress the edge of the house.” In the Moore House (1952) “the corner provided [Mrs. Moore] with a sense of the inter-relation of Nature without and living within that could do nothing less than eliminate the depression which we feel. She felt this interrelationship especially on a misty gloomy day, in other words when the house was at its most moody and when she turned to the window to get out, to enter its distant view over the far landscape and to join what she called the ‘mystery over the mountains’.” Neutra saw this corner as the precise moment where instabilities and uncertainties collect and where desires, both psychic and organic are projected.  

Our human psychology, Neutra recognised, comes from our human birthplace of "the primeval forest or the grassland of prairie and pampas," but has now become 90% man-made. Nonetheless, we still feel most comfortable in places that replicate the patterns of our ancient birthplaces.  One of the most potent is that of "prospect and refuge." As Barbara Lamprecht explains,
“prospect,” meaning looking out above your surroundings from a commanding position … afforded by glass walls. In contrast, the kitchen and the bedroom/dressing area, with their walls of warm mahogany, create the counterweight to prospect in the quality called “refuge,” or shelter, or what Gaston Bachelard called the cave. Both prospect and refuge are necessary to us.

Bothe qualities, of course, would have been physically necessary when subject to potential attack by wild animals, or other humans! Now they are just as necessary psychically. 

Those manipulations of corners, opening them up in contrast to a deep and sheltering corner opposite, is just one of the patterns Neutra built into his houses that recognised this deep psychological need. And this strong contrast between the deep sheltering "cave" set off against the opportunities for prospect made the whole space appear larger, and more active.
Neutra delivered a small space that feels expansive, not cramped, because it has an effect beyond its four walls. As he often said, his goal with small houses was to “stretch space” ...
So how well did all this work in practice? Freed summarises it as seeing its success from the few failures:
One of his clients, Mrs. Logar, wrote to Neutra in 1956 (just four years after building the home in Granada Hills California) saying that she and her husband wished to sell their house. She states, “it looks messy all the time and there is no place to hide things away. We are entirely exposed to view from all sides. This is just about right for some executive and his wife. I think I prefer to live in an old hidden away place for a couple of years to clear my thoughts.”Mrs. Logar was exhibiting one of the common criticisms of Neutra’s homes: the feeling of vulnerability and extreme exposure that accompanied living in the glass house.
    However this complaint is the home’s very success, not failure. Based on the Freudian understanding of empathy, which is defined as “an unconscious defense against internal impulses… to projection onto an inanimate object… into a defensive transfer of feelings onto another subject” it can be inferred that those who are experiencing these fears of exposure and vulnerability are actually experiencing their unconscious repressions becoming conscious. In the Freudian manner Neutra has brought to light what they have repressed since childhood- their fear of exposure and vulnerability- in order to overcome these fears and be cured of their neurosis.
    Mrs. Rourke, contrary to Mrs. Logar’s opinion, “argued that Neutra had given them a new living experience [and she] could think of only one word to describe the way she felt about it: Liberation.”While Mrs. Logar failed to overcome her phobia, Mrs. Rourke’s statement suggests that she was able to embrace the vulnerability tied to exposure from all sides at all times and was rewarded with a improved quality of life. The “improperly bounded environments of these houses permitted psychoanalysis to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The houses’ naturalising materials, blurred structure, and camouflaged glass are both in the open and deliberately evade the gaze, enabling their therapeutic actions to be everywhere while out of view.”
Understanding a building's enclosure in terms of patterns like "connecting with nature" and "prospect and refuge" allows us to understand how we can shape our houses today to meet the psychological needs of today's inhabitants. As Abigail Freed concludes:
This type of architecture is always a success if it at the very least helps those struggling feel as through they are helped. What is the harm if it relieves only the inner anxieties of some? Critics may claim it is “all in their head”, but that is the very basis of emotion -- we all exist in our own heads.
Agree or not, perhaps the most important thing to take away is that our psychological facts and requirements are just as important to the design of our houses as our physiological needs, or the house's structural demands. They are all facts of existence that we must take into account in our designs.

When we do, successfully, they can be a curative.


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Humble House for Hamilton

Here is why I call myself a "humble house designer": A humble wee house -- one of two, for the same extended family -- on a small well-surrounded site in Hamilton.

See of you can deduce the connection between this house, and Frank Lloyd Wright's explanation of what he means by the term organic architecture ....

Thursday, March 02, 2023

"The current building regulatory environment cannot genuinely support innovation without a major rethink."

"Concerns about the complexity of the [building] regulatory framework and its impact on innovation have been raised by BRANZ* in recent submissions to both the Commerce Commission and to MBIE....
    "While the regulatory framework has been designed to allow flexibility to use new products [Ahem! - Ed], in practice, it has not been totally effective. We believe this is because the regulatory system is too complex and creates uncertainty around how to ensure a product will comply.
    "This uncertainty then incentivises designers, builders and building consent authorities to favour tried and tested building products to ensure lower personal and organisation risk. In short, the complexity of the regulatory environment is driving behaviours and decisions across the building system that are risk averse, conservative and not conducive to innovation.
    "[T]he current [building] regulatory environment cannot genuinely support innovation without a major rethink."

outgoing BRANZ* CEO Chelydra Percy, in an unusually frank assessment of the regulatory impediments to innovation in the building industry, 'Holding Up a Mirror to the Industry'

* BRANZ, i.e., the Building Research Association of NZ is the government research body overseeing and appraising building materials and systems, funded by a compulsory levy on all Building Consents.a

Saturday, February 25, 2023

"By organic architecture, I mean..."

"By organic architecture, I mean an architecture that develops from within outward in harmony with the conditions of its being, as distinguished from one that is applied from without."
~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Monday, December 12, 2022

Architecture by Artificial Intelligence. Too soon?


Are architects no longer needed to come up with ideas?

Can we get the new Artificial Intelligence engines to dream up ideas for our projects, and others to then draw them up to get consented, and built?

Just for fun, I had a look at the DALL-E engine, that spits out images created on the spot, however crazy your request. 

I tried a few phrases based on current projects.

These four below were generated by the search term 'Auckland apartments by Frank Lloyd Wright' ...

... Auckland apartments by John Lautner

... Auckland apartments by Louis Sullivan

... New Zealand apartments by Louis Sullivan

... Aotearoa apartments by Louis Sullivan

... Wellington apartments by Louis Sullivan

A Usonian house in Auckland

... Usonian house in Aotearoa

... Usonian House in New Zealand

... John Lautner house in New Zealand

John Lautner glamping cabins in New Zealand

... John Lautner glamping cabins in Aotearoa

... Frank Lloyd Wright glamping cabins in Aotearoa

... Frank Lloyd Wright glamping cabins in New Zealand

... Richard Neutra  glamping cabins in New Zealand

... Bruce Goff apartments in Aotearoa

... Bruce Goff apartments in New Zealand

... Bruce Goff apartments in Auckland
... Carlo Scarpa apartments in Auckland

... Pier Luigi Nervi apartments in New Zealand

... Pier Luigi Nervi apartments in Aotearoa

... Carlo Scarpa apartments in Aotearoa

... Carlo Scarpa dream home in Aotearoa

... Frank Lloyd Wright dream home in Aotearoa

... John Lautner dream home on Auckland beach

... Richard Neutra dream home in New Zealand

I'm not convinced the architects named would recognise the work as their own. 

But what say you: Are local architects redundant yet? Any of these buildings here that you'd like to order up?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

"Beauty's higher prizes are not for the timid."


Retreat in Northern Hokkaido Mountains in Japan, by international architecture studio LEAD

    "Beauty's higher prizes are not for the timid." 
                    ~ Richard Neutra

[Hat tip Friends of Kebyar]


Monday, March 23, 2020

Architectural Mini-Tutorial: Tips for your home office

House in Mt Eden. Existing sunroom opened up to lounge, home office created
in new sunroom extension (at rear of picture). Pic by Organon Architecture. 

SO YOU'VE BEEN FORCED to work from home, and we're all pretty clear nothat it's likely to be for a very long time.

You can only work from the kitchen table for so long. And using a laptop on your lap for any length of time will quickly leave you with neck pain and feelings of frustration.

Having had my own office at home for many years now, I've learned a thing or two so that I can help you setting up your own.

We all know the usual tips for working from home: get dressed, have a regular routine, don't work in any kind of pants that have a drawstring....

But what about how to set up your home office, now that you know you may be using it for some time.

I don't know much about drawstring pants, but I do know a bit about spaces and how best to arrange them. So here are a few tips ...

Four major don'ts: 
  1. Don't work from your master bedroom. You need your regular bedroom for sleep, especially when (like everyone at the moment!) you really need that sleep to heal. There are ways to make it work architecturally (if no other option are available) but, in general, don't confuse your subconscious by mixing work and sleep -- especially if you're the sort of person whose desk isn't clear at the end of every day!
  2. Keep away from the fridge!  It's too easy to graze all day when you're at home, without realising the message your mirror is sending you. So try to keep to a regular schedule of breaks and meals instead of being ongoing. And if you do lack the won't-power, then set up a kettle in your workspace so you can avoid the temptation. (A good idea anyway of your house has too many other distractions.)
  3. Don't spend all day in your pyjamas. Yes, it is a cliche. That's because it is too easy: throw off the bed-clothes, stumble into the kitchen, rub sleep out of your eyes as you drink your first coffee at your kitchen-table desk ... and then realise several hours later that those online quizzes and twitter chats aren't going to get your work done, and you're already full of aches and pains from sitting badly for too many hours. So do make sure you have a place that tells your subconscious "I'm going here to work!" and then get dressed for it and ready for it as if it's a regular work day. Because it is. (And then make sure you separate yourself from your work once the work day ends too. I recommend a martini.)
  4. Don't stay inside! One of the great things about working from your neighbourhood is (hopefully) access to gardens, trees and open spaces. Use them! Get outside regularly. Take regular walks, have lunch in the open air, talk to other people (from a suitable distance!). In short, avoid cabin fever and keep yourself linked into the outside world. (Especially important is to spend at least thirty minutes, early in the day, out under the open sky. Sleep researchers tells us this is the single most important thing we can do to lock in the circadian rhythms that support healthy sleep.)
Another thing: with the possibility of schools and daycare closing soon, your children may be in the house with you. Which makes it even more important to carve out your own special space away from all the hubbub so you can focus. If your partner is home too, maybe you rotate shifts keeping an eye on anyone who needs it, but do make sure you can carve out three-hour blocks of time (minimum) to focus on your work. [I'll make a few comments in a few days about home-schooling, if anyone's interested.]

And you are going to need that quiet uninterrupted space too when you get into all those online work meetings. Who can forget this now-famous TV interview -- you (possibly) don't want this happening to you!

So, some Architectural Tips. This may be your workstation for some time. Do it properly. You may need to do some minor (or major!) renovation to your home; or you may be able to think laterally and only move around a bit of furniture -- it's amazing how a bit of lateral thinking can free up space! - but you have to make sure that its going to work so that you can enjoy working there. It has to be ergonomic, have decent shelving so your stuff is all to-hand, it is has to work efficiently and productively.

And it has to feel right, to support you psychologically. Especially now, when everyone's an emotional mess. It has to be a place of your own.

You don't necessarily need to use a whole room either. Try to get your spaces do double duty. Think about how much space you can make in a boat or a caravan -- often with things that easily hide away. That's the kind of thinking you might need to use.

Look for a spot you don't use -- an attic, behind a chimney space, part of a wide hallway or passage, large wardrobes ... there's more room available than you think, especially if you're thinking laterally.

You have to make the lighting work for you too.  No shadows across your work from lights or windows in the wrong place (so you'll have a totally different arrangement depending on whether you're right or left-handed). No high-reflective surfaces. Proper visual weight to the lighting arrangement. No looking directly into light fittings (see the effect of the light, not the light source). No glare on your screen from either lights or late-afternoon sun, enough light on your paperwork so you don't hurt your eyes.  In the right place so it supports your work rather than hinders it -- and makes you look good in online meetups too!

And remember: add delight. You are going to be here for many hours, possibly for many months. Make sure you have a view, or some art, or some plants -- or all three! Any place in which you spend this much time has to feed your soul just as much as you are busy feeding your out-box.

[Pic from Not So Big Remodelling: Tailoring Your Home For the Way You Really Live]
Some principles to think through:

Some people can work with things going on around them. Most can't. Especially in these difficult times, the space needs to feel like it's your own. Like a kind of private daily retreat that feels good to be in -- light filled and pleasant to be in so that you want to be there. Otherwise you won't be.
If you do want to keep yourself linked into family activities when you need to, then perhaps keep the space close to the main loop of family activity, but with doors you can close off for acoustic privacy when you need to.
Better to make a space that is totally separate and private, that doesn't become the family control centre. These are two different functions; don't confuse them!


Your new home office or "away room" can be anywhere and, like the fittings in a boat or caravan, can be tailored to adapt or change or fold away -- to be hidden when not in use. A "transformer space."

Or the space may be a lesser part of a multi-functioning space, one that won't create interruptions for you while working, of course. Perhaps there's a handy alcove that will accommodate a desk, into which you can add doors to close it away when you're not working.
Or you could convert a space you rarely use, like that garden shed, garage, or large formal dining space (which can do triple duty as your library!), or the media room (which you only use when you're not working, right?) into a home office cum social space. Or that extra-large wardrobe. (Just re-shelve some of those shoes!) Or the guest room which, unfortunately, you may not be using so much (and when you do, a foldaway bed can work).

If you're using a foldaway bed, try to keep at least 750mm between bed and computer when the bed is down. That may mean a moveable desk, perhaps on a cart.

Double-duty doesn't mean things should look temporary. Your workspace should feel as interesting and comfortable as the rest of your house, and have the same feeling of permanence.

Visual organisation is more than just organising your space so it works well. It's making sure the underlying visual order works to support the space -- this place in which you are going to spend many hours every day. So we need to bring visual order to the space to avoid the perception of chaos. So think through points of focus, pattern and geometry, alignments and the composition of the space, so that the space directs you to your work and reduces the apparent visual clutter around it.

** LEADS! 
Speaking of visual clutter! The bane of many a workspace is your leads to power all your 'puter stuff. Lots of leads under your feet makes you feel cluttered, so think through lead placement and the installation of enough plugs and plug boxes to make your space work. (If you're installing a lot of equipment, then maybe make a call to an electrician to set you up properly, or just to ensure your system can take all the new loads without blowing all your fuses!)

You don't really want to be adding new bathrooms. But especially with more hand-washing going on, you need to make sure your home office has easy access to bathrooms, without distractions en-route. Think that through.

Ergonomics is more than just the study of efficiency in working environments: it's about making sure the human body meshes organically and efficiently with your work tools for comfort, efficiency and to avoid long-term bodily injury. At a basic level, it's making sure seat, desk, keyboard and screen are set up perfectly for your body dimensions. At a deeper level, it's ensuring the whole space and its dimensions works the way you work: seating, shelving, screens, desks and reference table. Get your seat right (don't skimp on this one!) and get the work arrangement and all its associated dimensions right, and you will feel physically better working there, and your workspace will takes up only as much floor area (and no more) than it needs to.

Your new home office doesn't need to be accessible from inside the house, or even in the house at all. If you make it weather-tight , moisture-proof and insulated, and get reliable power there, then a garden shed, garage or basement can do the job.  Or a rent-a-cabin. A separate entrance may be best anyway to give you that feeling of mental separation from your work: strolling to the (former) sleepout in the morning could be just the thing you need to refresh yourself before work each day.
Or a combined entrance, sharing the same entrance hall, giving that little necessary feeling of extra separation.

Views out and/or long views within a space are important. When we grasp a thought, we often find ourselves staring into the middle distance. If that view is pleasant and plant-filled, or connects us to the wider world without distracting us, or throwing us into it, that's ideal.

Last but very far from least: feed your soul.
Be bold with colour: don't be scared to paint the space your favourite colour --  or maybe just a feature wall. (It's easy to change again if you get sick of it. Or just change it every season just for variety.
Have as many plants around you or in there with you as you can reasonably manage. Living things keep us connected and help clean the air in our workspace.
And have art in there! Do have all your friends' and family photos in there, but make sure to leave room for art: for colourful prints, small and engaging sculpture, even mementoes or things that remind us of important events, people or ideas in our lives.

Now, more than ever, we need to remember and connect with what's important.

Especially in that space in which, for months or even years, we are now going to have to spend many hours every day.

Hope this helps!

PS: I'm gearing up to consult on the installation of your new home office -- anything from a few hours conversation and advice, right through (if needed) to working drawings and tracking down a builder. If that interests you, drop me a line here at or to talk more.

Peter Cresswell
O R G A N O N.  A R C H I T E C T U R E

[Source: All pics from Not So Big House and Houzz, except where noted.]