The Architecture of Life: Home Is Where the Head Is!

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Home Is Where the Head Is!

Today, the New York Times Home section published Penelope Green's article about my architecture practice and our Truehome website.

It's called Home Is Where the Head Is.

Here is the link to the article - New York Times.

Here is a quote from the story.

"Architects complain that they are asked to behave more like mental health professionals than designers, clients complain that their architects and their mates do not understand them, and the stories of couples coming asunder, or of clients suing their architects, are legion.

"There are no hard numbers on exactly how many unions, either professional or marital, come to grief or end up in litigation as a result of bungled attempts at homemaking, but there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest a lot of broken hearts...

"...Cases like this have encouraged Christopher K. Travis, 57, an architectural designer here, to ramp up the promotion of his method, an exhaustive psychological and aesthetic compatibility exercise for would-be home builders that is part New Age self-help manual, part personality test. Mr. Travis calls it the Truehome Workshop (Truehome is a registered trademark), and he hopes it will do for the design and building profession what eHarmony has done for matchmaking."

I am more than proud of the article Penelope Green has produced and honored she and the Times would consider my project worth covering. I think it is not only well written, but tells my story and the story of my Truehome project fairly.

My phone has been ringing off the wall all day and people are signing up at our beta website like crazy, so right now, this article is a gift from heaven for me, my team and my family.

But there are a few small inaccuracies in the story. I have determined this blog is the right place to set them right. Some are factual errors and in other cases, merely misunderstandings of our process or circumstances.

Penelope, please forgive me. I take all the responsibility for not catching these minor issues.

A Few Small Corrections

1. The story reports that I created the first version of the Truehome Workshop four years ago. Actually it was over nine years ago. I have been working with clients using this process for just short of a decade. I created the first version of the "Homework" noted in the article in 1999.

2. The story reports that Truehome " contained in a huge binder with over 100 pages of questions, visualization exercises and directives..." In that case, Penelope is talking about the Truehome Workshop, which is the manual version of Truehome. That document is what we use in our architecture firm with our clients and also sell at

However, Truehome is also a very complex bit of software that is patent-pending. It is a psychological/environmental platform for delivering psychological tests related to changing your living space that has been completed since August of 2007.

What we are working on now are the products that software offers - basically the testing tools that help people save money and time when changing their living spaces.

3. In the article, Cecil Reynolds Ph.D., who is on our Advisory Board and one of the leading experts on psychological testing in the nation, is quoted as saying "’s going to take a couple of years to collect enough data to see if it really works.”

We know Truehome works as a process delivered in person in a professional setting. We have been doing it for ten years with clients. What Cecil is referring to - and will be responsible for in our next phase - is the scientific validation of the online testing we are creating.

Like - which has been awarded a patent for a process similar to ours - we work with complex analytic algorithms to do trend analysis that is part of what we offer users and professionals.

Validation is the process that scientifically proves the viability of such a test. It also helps you determine which questions are useful to collect what data...and the minimum number that will collect that information reliably. To validate such tests, you need a lot of users taking them.

We are still in beta, and until this story came out in the New York Times, we did not have a lot of users as we have not "gone to market."

4. In the Times story, the phrase "emotional architecture" is used in a different way than we use it in the Truehome Workshop and website. In the story, Penelope was interested in how we design homes that are emotionally compatible with the feelings of our clients. That is accurate. We do that.

What is not accurate is that we use the phrase "emotional architecture" to describe how you feel in a fitting living space. In the Truehome Workshop, we define emotional architecture as the architecture of your psychological self - you emotional an cognitive architecture.

We describe it as follows:

"Your Emotional Architecture contains deep unconscious values from your genetic and developmental heritage. These reactive behaviors are largely automatic. They appear in relationships, in our needs for intimacy and privacy, between parent and child, in our personalities, temperament and our actions in social and work situations.

"We often fail to recognize them because they are deep-seated aspects of our individual and group psychology. There are ancient motivators embedded in the physiology of our brains. When we perceive threats or opportunities in the world around us, hormones and neurotransmitters are released that incite behaviors. Those powerful motivators impact our view of the world and our actions in it, and are physical in nature. They are difficult - sometimes impossible - to alter consciously.

"Fear, anxiety, anger, rage, hate, suspicion, revulsion, romantic love, parental love, loyalty, protectiveness, sense of fairness, lust, jealousy, envy, and xenophobia (fear of strangers) are all examples of these innate motivators. Many scientists believe these traits are expressed because through the eons they have proven adaptive in the environments where humans lived.

"The world we live in is not a hunter-gatherer society. As a result, many of the ways we automatically respond to perceived threats and opportunities are not useful today. However, they are hard-wired into our brains and we must deal with them.

"Many of these behaviors are familiar as they are common in other animals. Some examples are: the drive for territory and personal space, mating and sexual strategies, dominance, submission and other expressions of the need in all social animals to find a place in the social pecking order. Other examples are our deep attachment to our mothers, kin and immediate social clan and our environmental/emotional responses to the world around us."

5. The story also reports as it nears its end that the steps of the Grace Garden at the little library my wife and I founded - the Round Top Family Library - are engraved with the words..."Why Dream Ordinary."

This is true. But in the spirit of full disclosure, we translated words that appear in a similar fashion - except in Latin - from a place at the International Festival-Institute at Round Top - an amazing facility here on the edge of our little home town.

So we stole our inspiration from James Dick, the founder of Festival Hill, or perhaps from Richard Royal, his long time friend and director. Those visionary men inspired with their great deeds and unique architectural creations our early work at the Library.

6. I am not an "architectural designer." I am not an architect though I have been designing homes for over twenty-five years. One must be registered to use the words "architect, architecture, or architectural" when soliciting design work. I am a designer and builder.

However I am the Managing Partner of an architecture firm. I do not "have architects on my staff." My Partner is a registered architect. He does not work for me. Our poor intern works for both of us.

7. I have not hired someone to run the Round Top Register. A friend I have known since 1970, a writer and columnist, has bought into my goofy little newspaper with real money and is now its Editor. He made it very clear to me today that he is not working for me, either.

8. I did not create the alone. My partner in that business is my youngest son, Benjamin William B Travis. He is a very talented programmer and systems engineer. He owns a nice big piece of that Internet start-up. He does not work for me and he made that known to his mother and I when he was fourteen. He is now twenty-six.

So when it comes down to it, all three of my partners do not work for me. They all requested I make that clear to the rest of the world.

9. Penelope asked me to name people who were sources for my process. The three she named were certainly influential, but I spent years reading in a variety of disciplines and talking to experts in a variety of academic areas to develop my theory.

If you want to have a more exhaustive list of sources, you can find it on the Experts and Sources page of the website.

(Note: This is a two page list, so note the link to the second page at the bottom of the first one. Also, this list is over 15 months old. I have since learned from many others. There is a lot of brilliant research and speculation going on out there.)


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Anonymous said...

Mr. Travis.
My name is Michaela Theofilou and I am journalist from Greece, working for a male very stylish magazine called "Hommes" (men in french). We are about to make a special home issue and I would appreciate if I could have an interview with you talking about the emotional architecture. I am very impressed about thie new king of architecture. My e-mail is
waiting for your ... positive answer.
Thank you in adv
Mickaela Theofilou

SP said...

Hi Mr. Travis,

I was searching for "Why Dream Ordinary" and your NYTimes article same up in Google. To set the story even a little straighter, as Dad (Jack Finke) tells the story, Doc Ayres suggested the phrase in Latin when Dad was doing the rock work on the church at Festival Hill. Dad also adds he had to have someone else check, to make sure Doc "wasn't pulling his leg." Anyhow, great work!!

Sarah Park,

Chris Travis said...

Hiya Sarah,

Long time no see. Great to hear from you! I did not know true origin of that phrase, only where I stole it from. Of course all things lead back to your dad, one of my heroes here in Round Top.

From your url, it looks like you are working with your dad or something these days. Is that so?

In any case, thanks for posting. It is very nice to hear from you.

Christopher K. Travis

SP said...

I'm just helping out with some of the promotional stuff for him, seeing as he'd much rather spend more time with his rocks than on the web! :)