Friday, September 10, 2010

Interpreting the Prime Directive

The crew of the Starship Enterprise used the "Prime Directive" document as their guideline for dealing with any encounter with alien species.  Although my job is not nearly as exciting as space travel, I have utilized many different prime directives to guide me through the complicated process of design.
     Each time I start a custom project, I ask the client to summarize their project in one sentence.  In Star Trek terms, it is the prime directive I must abide by during the design process.  The reason I require this is so that I have a common anchor for which all design aspects can be attached.  Without this, the design could end up going in many directions at once, leaving nothing but attached spaces, drifting in their own direction.
     Recently, the Chapel in the Pines committee came up with the following statement about their new facility.

"Chapel in the Pines reflects God's majesty by being in harmony with its surroundings, welcoming to its community and aesthetically original."

     The first key phrase within this sentence is "being in harmony with it's surroundings".  So the question is, how does this get applied to architectural design?  There must be a transparency, a blending of interior and exterior spaces. The structure must sit quietly within the pines, and respect the environmental impact of the developed area by minimizing site alterations such as grading, and tree removal.  Design elements should mimic those found in nature.
     Next comes "welcoming to its community".  In a way, this is similar to the first phrase except that it refers to how the structure will be in harmony with people.   There must be a gradual transition from out to in, and be of human scale in order to make it welcoming to the community.  Spaces must be created to encourage interaction, contemplation, and worship.  First time visitors must not be confused, but naturally drawn to their destination.
     "Aesthetically original" indicates a desire to be unique.  This feature will be guided by the phrases "harmony with surroundings" and "welcoming to its community" So in this case, unique is not odd, but a steady appropriate structure worthy of being called a chapel in the pines.   

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