Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Thinking It Through - Falling in love Print E-mail

ImageHaving a revolution is never as difficult as sustaining a revolution.

Lighting the first fire is never as difficult as rekindling the old enthusiasm, the old idealism, the old spark, or the old clarity of purpose and direction. Yet a fire which bursts into flame and then dies can be very destructive and offer no creative alternative to what has been destroyed. Keeping the revolution fresh is at least as important as having the revolution in the first place.

ImageWhen an organisation is established the greatest achievements are often made in the early days when the conditions are at their most difficult. The first generation is totally committed to what they are about. The second generation learns from them and keeps the vision alive. The third generation, who were not part of the revolution, does not understand what it was all about. At this point, if the organisation does not renew its own revolution, it will either destroy itself through the long lingering internal death of becoming tired, or else it will be destroyed through not having the resources to meet the external challenge of some new organisation.

Most of our lives are full of tired revolutions. Tasks which we once tackled with energy and enthusiasm become familiar, commonplace, and finally a little tedious. People who once made our hearts leap with joy, and gave us a great surplus of energy, come to be taken for granted and they no longer catch us by surprise.

A tired revolution will always be overwhelmed by a new revolution, not because new is better, but simply because new is new. Revolution can be an end as well as a means.

Sadly, it is too often not recognised that while the old can be made new, the new can never be made old. An old friend rediscovered has a special richness, depth, and sense of place which weaves them into the context of our lives.

If we did not have a superb post office network serving every remote corner of New Zealand we would be turning the country upside down to achieve one. Because this revolution has been achieved and allowed to grow tired, it is being destroyed by a new generation which has failed to renew the old vision of an egalitarian society with health, justice, education and welfare for all. The final sadness is watching the argument over the distribution of "assets" which were created as the result of a love affair.

It is not enough to fall in love once. We need as a nation, and as individuals, to fall in love again and again with what we are about. Reason is no substitute for the spark of love.

A house is a revolution. A house is falling in love with life. A house is both organisation and politics. If a house is none of these things it would be better if it had never been built.

A house can also be a tired revolution. Too many houses have arrived somewhere, but are not going anywhere. Once they were places of energy, enthusiasm and belief. Now they only need to be cleaned.

There is a necessary alternative to either clinging to the stability of a boring and tedious commitment, or discarding the old in searching for a new love affair with another site or house. Just as every person needs to regularly fall in love again with a familiar partner, and every political party or organisation needs to regularly fall in love again with its vision, purpose and direction, so every person needs to regularly fall in love again with their house.

It will not happen unless we make it happen precisely because familiarity prevents us from seeing that it is necessary. We do not notice that criticism has become entrenched or that responses and defence mechanisms have become ingrained. We may even have stopped doing the things that the house was all about, and never even noticed that they have gone.

Falling in love is regaining that special touch of madness which makes it possible to row along a moonbeam drinking champagne for no particular reason beyond the sheer joy of being alive with someone you love. You cannot calculate love.

Falling in love with a house is concerned with being, not doing. Not asking why, but asking why not. Experiencing the sheer joy of being alive in this place, which, because it exists, makes it possible to touch life.

Falling in love does not conceal problems or difficulties, or even really deal with them. Rather a person in love sees problems in a different way, through positive eyes, and in the context of years of fondly remembered good experiences.

Lovers are never bound by convention, so there are no formulae about falling in love with a house. Try taking a holiday at home. Postpone everything which needs to be done, and take time to enjoy what has been done. Sit quietly in the morning and listen to the insects and the birds. Buy a case if champagne and invite a few friends who love this house to talk the evening away remembering old times. Discover that the most wonderful place in the world to be is just where you are.

You will sense success in keeping the revolution fresh when friends notice that you have changed. When they ask what is wrong you will have to confess that you are having difficulty keeping your feet on the ground.
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