Each year around Valentine’s Day we write a #LoveHome post to celebrate why and what we love about home. In years past we have written about what makes a house a home, what our friends and clients love about their homes, and asked what makes your home special. This year as we discussed this upcoming post, a few of us around the office began sharing our memories of home. I think the stories below speak for themselves for how we think about home….
“There was a time when I experienced architecture without thinking about it. Sometimes I can almost feel a particular door handle in my hand, a piece of metal shaped like the back of a spoon.
I used to take hold of it when I went into my aunt’s garden. That door handle still seems to me like a special sign of entry into a world of different moods and smells. I remember the sound of the gravel under my feet, the soft gleam of the waxed oak staircase, I can hear the heavy front door closing behind me as I walk along the dark corridor and enter the kitchen, the only really brightly lit room in the house.
Memories like these contain the deepest architectural experience that I know. They are the reservoirs of the architectural atmospheres and images that I explore in my work as an architect.
When I design a building, I frequently find myself sinking into old, half-forgotten memories, and then I try to recollect what the remembered architectural situation was really like, what it had meant to me at the time, and I try to think how it could help me now to revive that vibrant atmosphere pervaded by the simple presence of things, in which everything had it own specific place and form. And although I cannot trace any special forms, there is a hint of fullness and of richness which makes me think: this I have seen before. Yet, at the same time, I know that it is all new and different, and that there is no direct reference to a former work of architecture which might divulge the secret of the memory-laden mood.”
– Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture
How We Think About Home
CZ: When I was growing up, I lived on the 11th floor in an apartment building. There was a window between my bunkbed and my desk. It did not open to the busy streets outside, but to an enclosed balcony off my mother’s bedroom. On rare Saturday mornings, when my mother was still sleeping next door, I would stand on my bed, reach the windowsill, and step on the stool placed outside of my window to jump down to the balcony. Standing on my tiptoes and pressing my forehead against the tall balcony windows, I could watch people passing by for the entire morning.
When I left home, my mother rented out her bedroom, and sealed the balcony door. When I go back and stay in my tiny bedroom, I still climb through the window to hang out on the balcony. I no longer have a bunk bed, and there is no more stool on the other side of my window for me to step on, but I am still as skilled as before at jumping onto the balcony floor. That bedroom is probably the only place I can still feel natural doing something so childish, because the movement – climbing through the window – has long become part of my body and part of my life at home.
The feeling of home is an indescribable sensation that we somehow all share and understand.
Making a home is not only about making a space, but also about making every single detail you interact with – and the interactions eventually make memories. Just like Zumthor’s poetic words, architecture is “an envelope and background for life which goes on in and around it, a sensitive container for the rhythm of footsteps on the floor, for the concentration of work, for the silence of sleep.”
CC: The house is finally cleared of every belonging; ready for the new owners to move in along with their children. It is bittersweet for me knowing that we had to let it go, but also that new and grand memories will flourish with the new family coming in. The house was in our family for 47 years, and while it is so empty now, there are memories tied to each room that surface in my mind as I walk through each space. I realize what made this our home were the memories left to me.
One of the most significant realizations was the handrail on the family staircase. I reflected on the history of this handrail in particular; the amount of times it was held; what made each nick in the wood; the warmth and feel of such a simple element. Years of use left such a personal history embedded in it. I didn’t realize how significant until now.
I can remember waiting each Christmas morning for all the family to awake before descending down the stairs waiting to see what Santa brought us around the corner. I can remember the quality of light in the morning from the sun; the worn patch work carpet that I had installed back when I was a teenager; that one stair that would creak if stepped upon. There are countless other things to remember in this space alone but was surprised how emotionally impactful even the simplest of elements in this home left me.
I left a small message on the kitchen counter for the children of the new family. ‘to the children at 164 main street, I hope this home leaves as many memories for you all as it did for me. Enjoy!’
Happy Valentine’s Day! #LoveHome