Geoffrey L. Gogan, Architect

"Well crafted, appropriate, budget conscious design"

Philosophical Underpinnings:

With the exception of Rehabilitation of Multi-Family Low Income housing,  I have always worked with real families, - rarely "Spec homes" for hypothetical occupants.  As I look back over 35 years of service, I hope that some of the small children I met in the mid 80's are now grown up with great memories of life in their home. They might remember the "Arts & Crafts" Detailing - Simple, rich woods, the floors, the kitchen, the breakfasts with a view and the sun, the fire in the fireplace, the screened in porch on a summer night, hobbies in the basement or attic,  cooking together, bathing,  and many other of the simple but important things in our daily routines. Ideally, the rituals of daily life would have included proper food preparation - maybe gardening, juicing, preserving, daily exercise, reading, nurturing the soul with meditation prayer, washing, laundry - and the home was a quiet waiter serving the needs designed by someone with that intention.  A good home expresses the love, entertaining, socializing, - the less visible aspects of what it is to be a "Human Being". 

I have such memories. I often looked around in the Maplewood NJ home I grew up in, and thought there had to be an unseen hand responsible for some of the thoughtfulness that went into the house, and it's details.  I appreciated it, and was thankful to my parents for providing it.  Aside from the home, I could walk to the schools, shoppiing area, train, recreation, and the proximity of those shared features improved life. 

I agree with the distinction some make between  "Service to Self" and  "Service to others".  A Building can serve as a metaphore in the sense that its purpose is dual.  It must serve the immediate needs and preferences of the occupants, but must also acknowledge its place as part of a greater whole, most of which is beyond the field of perception - part of the "Extended Field".  A personal version of this would be each of our Life's Enterprizes involving family, work, school etc, and how we are motivated to take care of our immediate family, but we also think about our contribution to the success of humanity as a whole.  A musician is making money, but also part of an orchestra performing in North Korea for the first time.  

Architecture isn't just about making beautiful stylized compositionally designed buildings within the perceptable or sensory field.  That is important, but the building is a machine that functions like a perpetual waiter, - behind the scenes - in service to growing or maturing families. As in any good restaurant, the environment and the cooking and waiting service is always secondary to- in the background of- the good tastes, conversation and fellowship at the table.  In other words, the waiter, cook, staff and environment humble themselves and remain a quiet backdrop to what's important.

Ultimately these practical - Efficient - "Green" systems serving the family are disciplined to respect the aesthetic need to express the Cognitive, Affective, Emotional, Spiritual Values.  They aren't always trying to draw attention to themselves, except perhaps in a small way as you enter or exit.  But everyone knows they are there respecting our place on the planet and in history - our contribution to the future.  This tension between the immediate field of the sensory - the preceptable composed building on the one hand, and the extended invisible field of the various systems which ultimately tie back into their natural source on the other is fertile nutrition for an architectural statement. 

The integrated design refers to our reliance on systems and materials that originate and return to their source in Nature.    A building can remind us of how our body's systems are rooted in a natural world we all share.  When a building breaths, exhales, drinks, adjust's temperature, enforces boundaries, incorporates the garden, etc.  humbly serving us humans, we can focus on conversations, simple living, and enjoying life.

From a developer/ builder's view, this would translate into the tension between the motive to keep initial capital outlay for construction as low as possible, while remembering that we want to keep operating costs and carbon footprint low in the long term.  A builder who will keep and rent an apartment building has no problem investing a little more up front to save a lot later, but one who is planning to sell, may not care.  Fortunately the marketplace - buyers and renters are now more educated and look for Green Features and LEEDS ratings.

Sometimes a building responsive to "The Green movement", able to unplug from the "Grid" - helping us to survive biologically overwhelms the more aesthetic concerns.   Anything can be overdone.  These days, there's a danger of becoming a "catastrophist"   Do we really think we could take care of "Number One" - be the one guy on the block with his lights still on - his loud generator spewing black diesel smoke out while the rest of the neighbors hunker down and wait for repairs.  Sitting inside with your shotgun protecting your food supply? The answer has to be "No".  However I can see how some of the elements, antennas, Solar arrays, could become new elements in design. They could be more poetic way.  We all remember the first satelite dishes on front lawns.   Technology is much quieter and friendlier - like the humble waiter.  Also, much of the back up technology would actually work better in small neighborhoods, not necessarily on each individual house - for example one large windmill recharging everyone's battery array.

This "House as machine" involves many systems all intertwined and working together.  Some are natural systems - sunlight, breezes, others are man made - information cables, data lines, gas lines, structural components etc.  Each one has something moving inside it, heading to a point of service to the occupant. the key is balancing them - disciplining them - acknowledging, but there is a tension in the restraints used to control them and subjugate them to the aspects of a building that respond to what really distinguishes us as "Humans" over other animals.

While the systems are often pushed inside the walls, out of view, they can emerge in a poetic way reminding the user of the effort made to bring fresh water from a reservoir miles away to their mouth, through their body only to be returned to the hydrological cycle. The same is true of all substances and information delivered to the house to be processed and then returned to the source.  This reminds us that while we and our homes appear separate, we are actually interconnected, and share what passes through our minds and bodies.  Bathrooms have become more nourishing spots for expressing this notion.  Its where natural stuff comes back out and disappears down the toilet.  Again, this is an occasional fun reminder, a whisper, not a "bullhorn" always in your face attracting attention. 

This attention to the systems relates to the current concerns with letting our choices in design help  Sustain our natural environment.  We do this by building modest size buildings, specifying materials that are made in the region, reusing as much of an existing structure and infrastructure as possible, incorporating passive energy saving technology as well as more active Solar, Wind and Geothermal.  We then balance them with the Aesthetic expressions that respond to the "Spirit in Man".

Shakespeare wrote: "All the World's a stage and all the men and women merely players".  Many buildings are really not much more than expensive stage sets for a "World of Make Believe" -"The Matrix" where occupants of Suburbia live inside a little bubble or mirage, blocking out the "Infra-structure" - the rest of the planet we share, yet, like a patient in intensive care,  they can only function if they are connected to the artificial life support systems of a central water, power, fuel, waste and food distribution systems.    A building should be a safe refuge, protecting us from the elements and, yes, even aspects of this world we don't want to think about at home, but not to the extent that it becomes a 24/7 walled off entertainment zone where, like a darkened theater, we can forget what's just outside the door - just beyond our percievable world.