How murky it is to travel the uncharted path and how clear it is, in retrospect. That observation led me to a rather unique approach to architectural design. In a word, let’s call hit Holism.
The springboard for our version of great design isn’t just good intentions. It is a philosophy and, as with any philosophy worth its salt, it doesn’t constrain itself to a particular business or even a particular profession. Let’s get really big here and talk about life. In our last, dying breath will we wish we knew in our youth what we know at that moment, perhaps a bit too late? What do we do, and how do we do it, before it’s too late?
We offer that a life well-lived is not piecemeal one, nor is it necessarily the rather linear sequence of events that a large portion of western society has adopted as its mantra: birth, youth, career, marriage, parenthood, retirement, death. Taking our cues from quantum physics and the retrospection that ties present to past, let us momentarily negate the concept of linear time and connect the two ends of this taut line of life together into a loop. What do you get? A circle. Once you define that shape, a flash of insight appears. The activity of life (what was a line) are like beads along the circle’s edge. Where, then, is the meaning? We can look in one of two places: outside the circle or inside the circle. We traditionally look outside the circle for meaning–to our caregivers, to our culture, to our religion. The second place to look—inside the circle—is disquieting because of its quietness. No clear guidance; only emptiness. Or is it?
Let’s now enhance the circle metaphor and imagine the path is a circle on the surface of what otherwise would be a still, clear lake. We walk the path from toddler-hood instinctively without needing a meaning to move forward. The traveler stirs the water and, inside the circle, “voila,” a depression appears–something like the eye of the proverbial hurricane. Outside the circle is another interesting phenomenon. The traveler notices other circles too and the ripples, thus produced, bounce-off and deflect upon one another in a sort of dance.
Inside the circle, it’s hardly a walk in the park, and yet it isn’t chaos. In proximity to a vortex, the traveler cannot help but be drawn in. What happens at the center? Like ice cubes melting from their contact with liquid water, we eventually disappear down into the matrix–we become part of the lake. We are the water, simultaneously inside the circle and outside of it, at the surface and below it. The lake is water, holistic, and the answer to the question about meaning is as inseparable to the question as real water is to life.
Applying holism now to a profession, then a business, specifically to the notion of design as it applies to Synchronis, the key point is that great design isn’t the accumulation of beads along the circular path, although many architects and clients seem to think so. Great design sits squarely (or roundly) in the center. Great design is the vortex that pulls you in, after which you emerge on the other side of the singularity—transfixed, transformed and, hopefully, improved.
The vortex, not by coincidence, is also a metaphor for Synchronicity which is the genesis of our firm’s name. If the beads along the circle are Aesthetics, Function, and Cost, each spearheaded by the typical firm’s Project Designer, Project Architect, and Project Manager, it would seem all three are merrily traveling along the circle, often not realizing that they are missing the heart of the matter. From the periphery, they have a hard time seeing it, let alone finding it.
Lastly, having negated time, we can neither ignore its reality nor diminish its importance. For better or worse, the architect traveler needs to spend many years, easily twenty, making repeated stops along the periphery of the circle gaining mastery over the elements and activities of successfully executing a project. Finally (and hopefully well before they draw their last breath), the realization comes into focus that great design has been elusive because they have been looking in the wrong place. Great design is not additive, it’s reductive. It’s not complex, it’s simple. It, as life, is essentially holistic. But oh, how difficult and long the journey is to catch the insight to see it that way.