Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Day 268 - The Wright Design Series


I have never a lecture at the Wright Design Series. This annual event in the Madison area features presentations from a variety of architects on a host of wide-ranging topics covering the field of architecture and its role in our lives. Focused on advancing the legacy of Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright, the program offers those outside the realm of building and design a look into the field by connecting architecture to the universal experiences we all encounter. Given my longtime interest in architecture, the idea of attending such an event excited my curiosity, which made it easy to decide that including the Wright Design Series as my “I have never...” year was a good idea. In turn, I tracked down the date and time of the opening 2014 Wright Design Series lecture of and set aside time to venture to the nearby Monona Terrace this evening for my first experience with the event.

Winter in Madison

When I arrived to the convention center tonight, I promptly found my way to the onsite lecture hall and took a seat among a small, scattered crowd of people gathering for the event. In the minutes following my arrival, groups of people slowly streamed into the hall as a few people made final preparations on the stage. Anticipating the start of the event, I busied myself with event materials and my camera settings until a familiar man walked to the stage and took to the podium. Welcoming the audience, the host of the PechaKucha event I had attended several months earlier walked through the format of the event and the background of the guest speaker, architect and Frank Lloyd Wright design expert, Tom Kubala.


Climbing to the stage with a smile, Tom was quick to guide the audience into his presentation, a lecture focusing on the life and evolution of organic thinking through design, art, and science. The broad scope of his subject matter was a bit surprising to me given the event’s focus, but Tom’s approach quickly revealed the concept’s relevance in a conversation about architecture. As he explained the origins of modern human partnership with nature and the influence of organic thinking in the development of humanity, Tom tied together important influences and philosophical concepts from Goethe, David Bohm, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Christopher Alexander. The result was a deep delve into the idea of beauty and the purpose of design and creativity in our world, which touched on the concepts of harmony and a common existence between the world and the buildings human’s create.

The origins...

Wrapped up in the themes of Tom’s presentation, I listened intently as he transitioned from broad concepts to a discussion of his firm’s efforts to expand one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous works and a National Historic Place, the First Unitarian Meeting House in Madison Wisconsin. As a location I had first experienced as a part of my “I have never...” journey, Tom’s discussion about the planning, design, and building phases of the addition to the religious site gave me an in depth look at the process that helped create the beautiful space I had encountered. He moved through the themes and problems of creating an addition that complemented such an important structure and the mental gymnastics required to find a balance between function, design, and the land upon which the building would rest. In the end, he tied all of these concepts together with a walkthrough and purpose of each phase of the building, culminating in the amazing view of the modern First Unitarian Meeting House.

Words of wisdom for David Bohm

As Tom wrapped up his presentation by fielding a few questions from members of the audience, I reflected on the concepts and cornerstones that guided his work. While it was easy to feel enthusiastic about architecture after hearing such an accomplished man speak, I quickly found myself focusing on the heart of Tom’s presentation. Universally, his lecture revolved around the idea of seeking unity with the beauty of the world through the things we create. His theme focused on seeking out the beautiful aspects of our world and never taking them for granted in the things that we do. From his perspective we were a partner with the world around us and respect for that fact was fundamental to discovery and serving a higher purpose.

Bringing it back to architecture

I couldn’t shake those takeaways as I found my way out of the Monona Terrace and began my drive home. Although Tom’s focus was on tying each of the concepts he introduced to the ideas and principles of architecture, his speech left me encouraged at the idea of continuing to seek new experiences. He was correct in stating the limitless beauty of our world commands attention, and that we advance only through understanding better the ways we are bound to our world. While Tom applies that to designing amazing structures, I realized that idea was also a guiding principle in my undying hunger to experience everything this life has to offer. Perhaps I’m in pursuit of all the beauty in this world, or perhaps I’m trying to understand my connection to all of it. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I’m on this journey.

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