slowness | Williams & Tsien

When we think about the bespoke, Tod Williams & BillieTsien writing about “slowness” comes to mind. In their renowned essay, Williams Tsien lament “lost tools” and describe their desire for slowness and its method, design and perception.

Billie Tsien & Tod Williams in studio | photo credit: Architectural Digest

Billie Tsien & Tod Williams in studio | photo credit: Architectural Digest

Buildings are still constructed with hands, and it seems that the hand still knows best what the hand is capable of doing.
— Tod Williams & Billie Tsien, "Slowness"

When Tod Williams & Billie Tsien lament the creeping disappearances of the tools of the hand, the premise is not a disdain for new technologies, but a concern for the onset of mass amputations.

When we talk about the “intuition” and “gestures” that describe the earliest stages of their design process, we consider tactile learning and the development of dexterity and muscle memory in the hand. A base elegance is refined to a newly acquired task. The hand learns and knows the clay before it throws it, and there is no distinction between the central core (pulse, lungs, mind) and the hands in the act of creation.

"Inspired by the idea of the wunderkammer—“wonder-room” or “cabinet of curiosities”—that originated during the Renaissance, world-renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien invited 35 celebrated architects and designers from around the world to create their own wunderkammers, filling boxes with objects that inspire them." published by Yale University Press.

"Inspired by the idea of the wunderkammer—“wonder-room” or “cabinet of curiosities”—that originated during the Renaissance, world-renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien invited 35 celebrated architects and designers from around the world to create their own wunderkammers, filling boxes with objects that inspire them." published by Yale University Press.

The desire in Architects like Williams & Tsien, who perceive building as Art, is to achieve a complete and comprehensive unity that is grounded in a history of development, can always be experienced in the present tense, and anticipates a future usefulness that also transcends. An aspect of a complex unifying perception and approach is the abandonment of a false notion of progress.

“Slowness” resists linearity as the only means of moving forward, which resists task-oriented specialties and efficiencies. “The sidetrack is simply a parallel route,” and each route informs the whole process, including the destination; “when engaging a new design, certainty is a prison.” Employing openness to opportunity means nurturing a different kind of work environment. Williams & Tsien shift away from current (non-nurturing) trends by embracing greater generalization.

Generalized is how Williams & Tsien described their office dynamic, “there is no division of labor into design, production, model making or interiors. Each architect is involved in the making of contracts, billing, and writing of letters.” They admit “because each person must be a generalist, a certain amount of efficiency is lost, as each person must learn all the tasks of the office.” But only a  “certain amount.” In the end, their exercise strengthens both the individual and the whole. Their annual weekend office retreat clocks in year-round. I’m curious in how much they save in communication versus what other efficiency models report from start to finish.

[the late] American Folk Art Museum, NYC | photo credit: Steve Silverman

[the late] American Folk Art Museum, NYC | photo credit: Steve Silverman

In choosing nurture over the present day nature of the industry, Williams & Tsien reiterate their Mission for the office: “We would like to be financially stable, but this will not outweigh artistic or ethical beliefs, which will always come first.” They reinforce their commitment to be deliberate.

Each pursuit is tailored to the building at hand: building of self, community & work/art/design. The interior ‘develops the logic for the façade,’ and the contextual situation of a building is internalized. The design process reflects its complex, multi-directional discipline. The hand-made is to build as a human with the human in mind. 

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L

quoting | pascal campion

We recently shared Pascal Campion's The Artist. As he concluded the dialog attached to the image, he wrote:

You just can’t stop being an artist… you don’t learn to be an artist, you just are one.. you learn tools and techniques, you mostly learn how to canalize and direct your creative energy, but you don’t learn how to be an artist.
— Pascal Campion

What do you think?

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Stonhaus: A History

Convent de Sant Francesc | David Closes | Photo Credit: Jordi Surroca

Convent de Sant Francesc | David Closes | Photo Credit: Jordi Surroca

Stonhouse. Or as it came to be stonehouse, then stonehouse-ark, followed by stonhaus.ark, stonhaus and now stonhaus | bespoke.

Half my life ago I smashed a couple words together and have found them a constant companion from that time forward. Stonhaus has always been a place to put well-crafted and -purposed intentions, ideas and things, especially those pretty things that didn’t have a home anywhere else.

In my junior year of college I had to brand myself. This was a graphic design course exercise intended to make us take something we knew almost too well and revisit it with fresh eyes. We spent time asking ourselves who we were and what we wanted, exploring our passions and our work. Finally we each came forward with a branding.

My work was of two minds during this project. One was the thought that I was already a brand and I needed only to find a graphic language to convey that brand. The other was interested in a reboot and finding a nom de guerre. For the final product I produced a personal logo and letterhead all based on my self and the brand I already inhabited.

 

RSD Logo

RSD Logo

In addition, I produced a second set of work, what in retrospect has become more interesting. I took on the name Stonehouse. It called to mind simplicity, craft and maybe even a hint of the faerie.

My furniture felt more fully realized as work by stonehouse. I proceeded, for years now, to design under this name; never in large ways, but always in intentional ones. I have dragged the name along, refining the form language, trying to find the stonhaus itself.

As for ‘bespoke’…

In the midst of conversation with a coworker, she used the word bespoke. It was not the first time I had heard the word, nor the first time I had ruminated on it. However, this time it really stuck, very much the way stonehouse (now stonhaus) had struck those many years ago.

Here, now, I have a place that is the stonhaus I have been building slowly these almost twenty years. It is the bespoke work of our hands and minds and marriage. It is a place to call to mind simplicity, craft and maybe even a hint of the faerie.

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Sean

In One Beginning...


credit: Blue Rose Photography, May 2003

credit: Blue Rose Photography, May 2003

When Sean and I first began talking about publishing this site, it was to help generate traffic toward and interest in the handcrafted shave brushes sold at his etsy shop: stonhaus | bespoke. We would create a blog to post conversations and products not only limited to shaving, but the population interested in notions beyond plastic razors and non-rusting foam shave dispensers. Content will still be created on topics like crafted beer and coffee, bikes, bees, music on vinyl and exotic woods. But we’ve moved in a slightly different direction.

Since we first spoke of marriage, Sean and I began to dream aloud. The narrative projected less of a detailed vision and plan, but established a steady discourse about what life really needs to look like for us. For instance, we are not the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of people. Sean designed and built the majority of our furniture; and we like our definition of home to include a steady flesh-and-blood neighborhood. And yet, we were hit hard by the recession and still recovering, we migrate with the work, have yet to buy a home or reach our goal to live in one city for at least five years. The consequences have been positive and negative.

We’ve hit a point of late where that need for like-minded community has become necessary to our thriving. We will partake in its vitality whether physically present or no. We can play the hermit well, but feelings of isolation (rational or no) have been taking a silent toll. Like student loans coming off deferment, worse, forbearance, you have to start prescribing to heart medication and anti-anxiety meds, because you suddenly cannot breathe—a proper claustrophobic in the confined spaces. When you need to practice your art most, it is deemed irresponsible—but is there anything more practical.

We’ve learned to build homes where we are and where we go.

On the page we titled “Story,” we have tried to convey, as concisely as my long-winded self could manage, just what this stonhaus | bespoke thing is about. It is a personal project where we hope to move conversations beyond the rooms of our house. In a sense, we are building one here with the nameplate stonhaus | bespoke. Within it: we will have people in; pin things on the wall; react to the world around us in conversation, in essay, in loud thumping music and a soothing iced tea. As it is not our life, not the whole of it, this house will have a specific use. We will not speak of everything, nor could we articulate it, even if we desired to.

Here we will collect inspiration and encouragement. Maybe it will quilt together, with fine and clumsy threads both, an open letter of our pursuit. Maybe it will have a use to you, we pray it will prove some use to us.

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L