by Durand Seay
"Are we there yet" or "where do we go" answered through architecture design.
| Well, where is the door? How do you get in? Where do you go? Yep you guessed it, I think. To not know where you are going is about one of the worst feelings a person can have unless they are just doing the “go with the flow;” that is if there is a flow. We drive around and around in our cars, looking for something that will guide us to our destination. Funny how water towers, church steeples, gas stations, points of references, all help to determine what direction to take and reach our “are-we-there-yet” destinations. The frustrations of this process are always reduced with the use of a map or the GPS these days. We just want to know where to go to reach our goals. Therefore, architectural elements of any kind to help us to have a guide are essential.
The first element of direction is the placement of the front door, the entrance. To a house this is crucial. This defines one of the most important references we have to who we are socially. It is our branding so to speak. Is it more recognizable or does the garage door take president? How unfortunate with so many homes that have been built place the garage door as the most important feature. This said, I suppose how many cars we own is more important as to how to define to others what our home is about. The front door is an after thought, secondary, and we really don’t want anyone to visit as they search for the welcome mat.
The front door can be placed front and center, off to the side, but the front door defines entry and should be celebrated with whatever accoutrement we can put to it. A front porch is always great to provide shelter, a way station before we enter. A pediment, you know those triangular shaped architectural adornments usually held up visually by columns or pilasters and an architrave will bring attention to the door. Add a few side lights and viola, we have defined entrance. Direct the visitor’s attention with pathways, landscaping and lighting at night.
Let’s look especially at a view of a house which has more than one door to understand also the importance of clarity. The design is to tell people this is the one “we will welcome you”. In memory of a house attended for a reception, it had three arched top French doors, side by side, as the front door. The most interesting aspect of this was how visitors would hesitate as to which door to open. It didn’t matter, you still came into the same space, but it created a moment of disconcerted confusion, the ”I’m not sure” moment of hesitation. All it took was to incorporate some feature, visual signals that would set the middle set apart to make one sure and leave no doubt. Maybe just a different use of textured or colored glass would be all that they needed.
How pathways are organized inside a home is the second element which defines a clear direction. Pathways should respect, facilitate and incorporate the hierarchy of spaces from public to private. They should give us no doubt as to where we need to go or where we should not go. The word flow is has been coined by many in this regards. Like several sets of glass doors in a living room, adjacent the next outdoor loggia creates flow. They draw your eye to views beyond, connecting the two defined spaces functionally.
Paths must respect how spaces are used to avoid slicing rooms into smaller less functional areas. A for instance, within a living room or den, if the pathway to the next space is defined (by a doorway to another doorway) diagonally through that room, the room no longer provides for all occupants to be engaged consistently throughout. By others moving along that path, those engaged in conversation are interrupted. The room functionally gets split in half. So set pathways to the sides of rooms. In home remodeling, take advantage of moved doors so the flow is out of everyone’s way. Literally, there was one experience where this was the problem and the home owner concluded as the only solution was to add another room. Regardless of the fact all rooms were being remodeled, moving the door was too expensive.
Pathways inside the home too should be celebrated like a front door. Introduce windows at the end of hallways for the views beyond. Bring in light with windows to the sides create rhythms for the eye to follow. Establish points of interest with highlighted paintings or a niche to give the user references, like that water tower in the drive to get to your destination. All of this seems like simple concepts, for which they are. However, it takes someone to bring it to your attention and state the importance, so that you know what makes a home work right with a clear direction.