Everyone loves when new project is conceived. The designs that are imagined in collaboration with an Architect and an Owner is magical – it is one of the rare opportunities in life when we have some control about creating something meaningful. An architecture project offers hope and meaning to a world filled with complexity, anxiety and chaos.
When a project is developed there is a sense of hope that the world will be a better place. Great architecture allows people’s lives to change for the better addressing the programmatic needs of the client while offering beautiful, harmonic spaces for the occupants.
When an Architect envisions a space for a client, they are taking a wish and making it a reality. The new spaces that make up the built work will become treasured by those who are able to experience it. The building itself will shape the lives of the occupants and allow them to do the things they could not before. Great architecture is more than just a shelter or a place that addresses the client’s need. Great architecture transcends time and space and connects us in various ways: literally connects us in real time when using the space but also interacts with the occupants as experiences are etched into the memory of the building. There is a feeling you get when you are in a great building. It is difficult to describe but the space itself is more than the sum of its parts. It is a spiritual experience. An example of such a building for me is the Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright or the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts by Frank Furness.
Experiencing these buildings on various occasions exemplifies how Architects can design buildings in a way that epitomizes hope. There are two definitions for hope: (1) a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen and (2) a feeling of trust. Indeed, experiencing these spaces and many others the occupant does have a strong desire for something to happen and there is a feeling of trust that something will happen. When visiting these special places, it is easy to see that designing architecture of hope allows the visitor a chance to experience a space that otherwise would be unexciting and humdrum.
When starting out on a project it is important to address this inherent desire to create someplace distinctive and extraordinary by thinking about how we as great Architects can live up to the desires and hope of our clients, even when they may not clearly see or sense the hope in the vision they are trying to construct. Our jobs as Architects is to offer hope to our clients through our exceptional and distractive skills, blending art and science and craft when practicing Architecture. If we can do this then we can create an Architecture filled with hope.
We would love to hear from you on what you think about this post. We sincerely appreciate all your comments – and – if you like this post please share it with friends. And feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss ideas for your next project!
Ever since I first heard about Frank Heyling Furness (1839–1912) during an Architectural history class I have been fascinated by his work. I made several trips to Philadelphia to see his work and I am familiar with his Emlen Physick Estate in historic Cape May, New Jersey. Although at first glance his work appears to be traditional Victorian, his body of work trandscends any particular style. I consider Furness the first Deconstructivist (or Pre- Post-Modernist) the way he melded different styles to create his work. Below I am featuring his most well known and preserved work, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts located in Philadelphia, which is one of the few projects that have been preserved.
No small part of Furness’s historical significance lies in the fact that the young Louis Sullivan picked this office – then known as Furness & Hewitt – to work in for a short period after he left Ware’s School in Boston. As Sullivan’s Autobiography of an Idea testifies, the vitality and originality of Furness meant more to him than what he was taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.”
Following decades of neglect, during which many of Furness’s most important buildings were demolished, there was a revival of interest in his work in the mid-20th century. The critic Lewis Mumford, tracing the creative forces that had influenced Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, wrote in The Brown Decades (1931): “Frank Furness was the designer of a bold, unabashed, ugly, and yet somehow healthily pregnant architecture.”
The architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock, in his comprehensive survey Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (revised 1963), saw beauty in that ugliness:
“Of the highest quality, is the intensely personal work of Frank Furness (1839-1912) in Philadelphia. His building for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Broad Street was erected in 1872-76 in preparation for the Centennial Exposition. The exterior has a largeness of scale and a vigor in the detailing that would be notable anywhere, and the galleries are top-lit with exceptional efficiency. Still more original and impressive were his banks, even though they lay quite off the main line of development of commercial architecture in this period. The most extraordinary of these, and Furness’s masterpiece, was the Provident Institution in Walnut [sic Chestnut] Street, built as late as 1879. This was most unfortunately demolished in the Philadelphia urban renewal campaign several years ago, but the gigantic and forceful scale of the granite membering alone should have justified its respectful preservation.
On the occasion of its centennial in 1969, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects memorialized Furness as its great architect of the past:
“For designing original and bold buildings free of the prevalent Victorian academicism and imitation, buildings of such vigor that the flood of classical traditionalism could not overwhelm them, or him, or his clients …
For shaping iron and concrete with a sensitive understanding of their particular characteristics that was unique for his time …
For his masterworks, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Provident Trust Company, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, and the University of Pennsylvania Library (now renamed the Furness Building) …
For his outstanding abilities as draftsman, teacher and inventor …
For being a founder of the Philadelphia Chapter and of the John Stewardson Memorial Scholarship in Architecture …
And above all, for creating architecture of imagination, decisive self-reliance, courage, and often great beauty, an architecture which to our eyes and spirits still expresses the unusual personal character, spirit and courage for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery on a Civil War battlefield.”
Click here for more information on Frank Furness.