The Architecture of Life: June 2009

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Nature of Home - I

Copyright 2009 - Christopher K. Travis

Those who follow this blog know I run an architecture firm and an Internet technology startup at – both of which use a systematic approach to creating an “experience of feeling at home” for our clients and users.

This series of posts asks the question “what is the nature of home?”

I will explore “home” from many different views, asking that same question from a personal, cultural, financial, philosophical, psychological and multi-disciplinary scientific perspective.

My goal with each post is be concise rather than apply my typical – let’s be frank – verbose and rambling style of writing.

So this series will be an attempt to write in a more focused way about a very complex subject - one I have long studied. Wish me luck! I am not exactly known as a “man of few words” - but here goes.

The “Common Sense” View of Home

At one level – everyone knows what “home” is. It’s where you live and how you feel while you live there. Most of us see it as the building we inhabit but also know we “feel at home.” We know we come from a “home town” and go “home” to visit our past.

So we know home somehow involves emotional experiences associated with belonging, safety and personal claims to space or origin.

“Feeling at home” is something almost everyone wants to experience. In that way, home is a physical metaphor for the womb.

But the truth is that many people do not feel "at home" in their habitations at all.

You don’t feel safe and comfortable where you live if your parents are abusing you; your marriage is on the rocks; your children are driving you crazy; you have medical, psychological or financial problems - or if the neighborhood in which you live is dangerous, unhealthy or unfitting.

So the “home” that is a building - and the “experience of feeling at home” - are two different things. One is a physical structure – bricks and sticks – and the other is a complicated suite of emotions that impact how you see that building and those who live with you.

But most of us relate to our homes as the former - a building we inhabit. We enter, sit on the couch and watch TV, or play with the kids, or try to get some rest at the end of a hard day at work - and simply don't think about it.

We don’t see “home” as a complex, interdependent, physical, emotional and psychological eco-system created more by how its inhabitants view reality that by it physical components. We think it is a building we are familiar with and "already know."

But home is really in our perception - our view of reality. We all carry deeply ingrained historical views of reality – born in our past – about the nature of home.

We predict our future experience by looking backwards – both consciously and unconsciously – at our past experience. Most of us are not present to this fact. We think we are rationally choosing our experience - but in reality - our "experience of home" is in our heads.

Home is like water to the fish...just a given. Life goes on. We view the reality we experience each day as a result of our circumstances - something outside us - rather than a result of our points of view.

That is the “being of being human,” and it's universal with all people in all cultures. So even looking objectively at the “common sense” level, you can see that home is a very complicated subject - and one that is widely misunderstood.

These facts make it very hard to transform our "homes" into an environment that truly supports and inspires us - because remodeling an "experience of life" is much more complicated than remodeling a building.

Go to The Nature of Home - II

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Courage and Sacrifice in Iran

My heart goes out to all the brave people of Iran as they speak truth to power.

They are not just fighting for themselves. Like all people who place their bodies in harm's way for the cause of liberty - they fight for us all.

In this all religious people are united - Moslems, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and all the other myriad faiths of the world. Our spiritual teachers tell us that ultimately man is answerable only to God - not to nations or political systems.

In this, all people who place their faith in humanist ideals and values also unite. Those who will not place their faith in religion still seek civil liberty and free self expression naturally.

The courage and commitment of the Iranian people also holds a lesson for those of us in the West. We can see the unfair stereotypes of America that are promoted by Islamic extremists - but we are often blind to the stereotypes we hold ourselves about other cultures and faiths.

People are people. They long for freedom, self-expression and the opportunity to create a better life.

In the last few days we have seen a culture often demonized by our own politicians for what they really are.

They are human beings. They love their children, their country and their heritage just like us. Like us too, they must face the truth in the old axiom - "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

We in America have had to face down power many times. The liberty we have now was not won in the American Revolution. It has been wrested from the hands of the powerful and unjust time after time throughout our history. It's legacy was expressed in grassroots movements - from the women's movement to the civil rights movement and onward.

It was born in the labor movement, the environmental movement and still today - people must hit the streets to gain civil liberty for those condemned because of their choices in love. Truth be told - there is still much to be done in our country and in all nations on our planet.

All people have the right to civil liberty...but all people must remain vigilant so that their freedoms are not taken from them. Whatever disagreements we may have about other matters - those people in the street in Tehran are our brothers and sisters in their fight for freedom.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Truehome and Mindfulness

James Burns is a blogger who makes a living as an interactive designer, scrum master and technical writer.

His interests are eclectic - but center around what he refers to as "mindfulness".

He follows research on things like the social determinants of health, and the latest in neuroscience, particularly as it relates to the scientific study of mindfulness.

He also has some kind things to say about Truehome. Thanks for the shout out James.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mountaineer Heritage Park

I have to brag about a project our architecture firm is currently undertaking that involves several Texas landmark historic buildings.

It is newly called the Mountaineer Heritage Park - and involves a large compound in Mineral Wells, Texas that will become a local historical district in the near future and is being submitted to the national registry.

My career began over 30 years ago as a restoration builder. I was a lead designer for historic projects long before I began to design other projects simply because my mother - who is a historian - dragged me around with her to historic properties as a child. When I went into construction and design - I gravitated to old structures long before I began to design homes and other structures.

This current project is something really special. Mineral Wells has been through many ups and downs in its storied history so this new community center could be the spark that causes a wave of revitalization and pride for the entire community.

This particular site involves three buildings - a historic high school, the first "school house" built in the county in the 1800's and the first stand alone home economics building built in Texas.

It also includes - of all things - an amazing WPA outdoor stone amphitheater like those built in many state and national parks. This is the first time I have ever seen one on a school campus.

The old Mineral Wells High School building sports a unique indoor auditorium with a free standing curved balcony unlike anything I have ever seen - which will soon host plays, concerts and school activities.

Another unique thing about this particular non-profit project is that it is being sponsored by a really unique non-profit. It is called the 50 Year Club and to be a member you had to have graduated from Mineral Wells High School at least 50 years ago!

How about that! This is a group of "can do" senior citizens that are not satisfied lazing away the last decades of their lives - and are out to create a legacy. A very impressive group!

We used a variety of the adapted Truehome programming methods we employ when doing projects for organizations not only to inform the design - but to help them create a development campaign.

We also created an identity design plan to "brand" the project that fits who they are as an organization and a community. It is designed to empower and inspire them and the Mineral Wells community.

The whole thing has been a great experience. Congratulations to the 50 Year Club and Mineral Wells, Texas for having the courage to take on a new community center and unique historic venue. They are raising money right now and we encourage anyone with ties to that community to support their effort with enthusiasm!