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A Reply: Misleading Quote Was a Disservice to Architectural Debate

Editor of the Reformer:

In response to a quote published in “Wilmington home still too big for neighbor,” May 8 — “I don’t think that it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever designed or seen but I think it meets the requirements of what they were trying to do.”

Architecture, for me, is not something that is easily distilled down to a single image, thought, or phrase.

The home in Wilmington, that the Reformer article speaks of has gone through several design iterations due to a zoning process that has been unusually long and arduous. The initial design has been whittled down and altered to accommodate changes in the zoning ordinance, the suggestions of a previous DRB meeting, and compromises to respect neighbors’ concerns. The final outcome is not what I believe it could have been.

One of the DRB members asked about the aesthetic quality of an elevational drawing leading me to say what is quoted in the article. Architects and designers use Elevations as a way to convey proportion, materiality, and geometry. As such, elevations are tools of building rather than images of beauty. Elevations can never convey the shape or the emotion wrought of passion and utility that is, I believe, the heart of architecture. Architects form materials and vision into space — full of potential and purpose, texture and color, light and shadow.

When we are required to flatten it — to reduce it to an orthogonal, static image — the art and power is flattened as well. Judging the beauty and intention of architecture by looking at Elevations is like judging the life of an individual by looking at their census data.

When architects and designers talk about our craft, we are talking, quite literally, about the environment we, you and I, live in. We wrap our everyday existence in the the buildings on Main Street and the columns and beams bounding our front porch. Architecture, for me, is the mother of all art and the driving force that pushes me to reevaluate and reimagine how I think about my life and how I live it.

Each design I begin starts with a conversation about the people that will inhabit the space and I have always felt it a great privilege to design a family’s home. A home is the living journal within which we write our lives — living our most precious and even most desperate moments. I never go into the design of a house lightly because I know it will become a silent partner in the lives of my clients, their family, friends, and neighbors. It is more than art to me, it is sacred.

Architecture, for me, is not something that is easily distilled down to a single image, thought, or phrase. I think it is a shame, however, that all of the intention, passion, and time that so many people put into this project was potentially reduced to a single misleading quote of a frustrated professional speaking nervously in front of a review board.

Patrick Kitzmiller,
Brattleboro, May 10

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