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My dog Colby is old and a “glass half empty” kind of pet.  He has been suffering with painful joints and can often be found with a sad look on his face like his better days are behind him.  Having said this, there are daily times when he seems to forget all the accumulated physical baggage of age to revel in the moment.  Eating his breakfast and dinner certainly still qualify, as do moments when he is outside walking and “protecting” us from other predatory dogs which, in his mind, are just about all of them that are big–even the ever-friendly golden retrievers.  I watch him pause to smell a neighbor’s shrub and can see him pondering great dog thoughts, mentally reconstructing the parade of dogs who, on this solemn day, came before him.  Arguably, there is a whole universe of doggy awe and beauty having to do with smells, that humans will never quite understand, except by analogy with vision.  In spite of the current condition of our world, which makes many of us sad, we still revel in a gorgeous natural setting or when walking through a pretty part of town on a beautiful day.  It is in moments like this we get a quick hit of the perfect antidote to all that ails us.  In spite of not having nearly as good a sense of smell, I’m reminded by my dog that the perfect antidote to what ails us is beauty.

Whether adding to the cultural vibe of a jaunt to town, to the quality of our work environment, or to the potential respite of a life at home, we architects have largely forgotten the power we hold to elevate the human condition.  We wield just about the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, and it’s not the atomic bomb.  Rather than, as some might, destroy whole regions with a single executive action, architects can do the opposite.  Building by building, we can revitalize regions (as in the Latin etymology “to give life”).  It’s an awesome responsibility to give life to our physical environments using the power of design.  In spite of receiving training at least as rigorous as those required of doctors and lawyers, architects, so often beaten down through a lifetime of struggle and mercantile competition, are quick to view (and diminish) themselves as a commodity, so the best don’t always win the privilege to fix what needs fixing.  Far from it.  So we, as a society, get what we get, waiting patiently for some sort of salvation from those who have built the status quo and those who collect their paycheck preserving it.  If this battle to fix things can be likened to a war, this is no way to win it.

Albert Sawano

Albert Sawano has applied experience from over three decades working on major building projects to converge upon a design approach that sets aside traditional polarities such as functional vs. aesthetic, or architectural vs. structural, in favor of design that is holistically-approached, integrative, and synchronistic.