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New Year and Classical Belief

As a child I once dreamed of being an architect but like many things from adolescence more immediate concerns took precedent. When I landed a minor CAD drafting and secretarial position for a major regional firm in my mid-twenties I thought it destiny -  until I realized that governmental regulations extremely limit educational supply and volatile housing markets periodically gut the profession. Nevertheless you may find an occasional plan or elevation on my computer or in my sketchbook satiating a now-and-again fancy...

I see what has been and what is currently being done architecturally across America on a daily basis working for a landscape lighting manufacturer. I scour glossy and ridiculously expensive architectural photography websites and magazines for product applications for our blog and advertising. I like to think of it as my real-world super contemporary art history class. What has been done in the name of progressive, cutting-edge, minimalistic urbanism is at times nothing short of visual poison.

Architecture too, like all other humanities, suffered through the great artistic cataclysm of the 20th century. We are burdened with useless buildings that permeate countless downtown “revitalizations” of the 1960's and 70's when Fascist architecture was somehow revived and permitted to combine with Disneylandesque/Tomorrowlandian style. Downtown Fresno, particularly around the bird-cage courthouse unfortunately is a prime example of a space so undesirable and unlivable only zombie-like drifters and pedophile transients make it a permanent home.

Fresno County Office of Education

Post-modernism helped save architecture as much as it did painting. To make an analogy, PM is a bar-tending buffoon, someone who piously believes that low-shelf liquor when vigorously mixed and shaken will become more than a vomitous concoction that wine connoisseurs will suddenly and euphorically praise. Post-modernism is after all, a dying anything-goes type of religion. It is an organization that is struggling to find new vocations among artists and other humanitarians because of its empty promise and poor efficacy.

By chance, like Moses discovering the Burning Bush, I stumbled upon the residential architecture of John B. Murray. John's classical convictions are strong and I was happily shocked to discover his firm refreshingly creates drawings in the analytique Ecole de Beaux-Arts manner (with pencils and paper) and his residential projects are some of the most logical, beautiful and well harmonized examples one may find today.

John B. Murray Architecture, Pool Pavilion
For the new year I thought it most appropriate to share a few of John's beliefs in his own words from his firm's Monograph which was released in the Fall of 2013. The following text is from that work's Introduction and has been truncated for brevity. For those who would like to read the original, please see the John. B Murray website. The polish of his writing makes it easy to ascertain that the following words are his and his alone:

In matters of design, I am both a classicist and a modernist. I have found the language of classical design to be a limitless source of invention as well as a true touchstone of quality. We steep ourselves in the accumulated knowledge and understanding of previous practitioners. We have to look at our built history with a fresh eye, using it to create classically inspired spaces.

I began to understand this concept of good practice and the attention to detail that it requires; buildings go up through collective knowledge, they hold up because they are assembled properly. At the same time, I really began to see that classical design is a language open to endless manipulation, transformation and renewal. The vocabulary is there. The models are there. The invention comes from looking and interpreting it anew and the greatest beauty lies in restraint.”

Whatever technique or technology is used, drawing is the method of getting to the built world. Here we prefer not to leave anything to the imagination or to chance. When we start a design, we're working on a small scale and building up – that's when the analytique proves particularly useful. Our final documentation is full size, with every shape, piece and component fully delineated. There's no shortcut to that process and that's just the beginning.

Architecture is a complicated profession with many moving parts. Architects [and artists] need to have more than a passing acquaintance with many different areas of expertise. We inevitably run into challenging situations. And that's where the will of the artist comes in: its important to be dogged. I've learned to never give up. There's a proper way of putting architecture together that gives it that staying power and history shows that the refinement and sophistication of classicism is forever modern.