A Gentle Intervention

photo series by Bryan He

How do we balance creativity with the demands of a modern day practice? How do we express our uber-city visions from the epicenter of a crushing housing crisis? Does it actually matter what we think?

These questions buzz around the Human Studio all day and in order to wade through the swamp of our to-do lists we swat them away. They buzz, we swat, they buzz, we swat. Please! We’re trying to architecture over here!

Marc-Antoine Laugier, 18th century author of “Essay on Architecture”, felt the ideal architectural form embodied what is natural and intrinsic, failing to mention code even once:

"Man is willing to make himself an abode which covers but not buries him… [it] is the model upon which all the magnificences of architecture have been imagined." Laugier said, while lamenting humanity’s disconnect with nature and definitely not while rushing between meetings, buried in emails and spilling coffee on his Jesuit robes.

And so the Human Studio Legion of Dreamer Pragmatists set about on our own expedition to discover the origin of our mad impulse to devote our lives to architecture. Turns out it was to be found on Cortes Island BC, at the end of a semi-public trail on a rocky bluff overlooking the ocean that needed a shade structure.

Leave it to a group of architects to complicate simplicity but stepping beyond the confines of urbanity in order to reconnect with it, well it got complicated. There was delicate moss to consider (we’ll raise it on small stilts!), view obstruction (place them on the lower ledge!), hike in only access (modular prefab!), preservation of the pristine surrounds (carry the materials in!), material sustainability (wood!), fabric decomposition (cotton!), existential crises (huh?), apocalyptic fantasies (wha?) … not a single hole had been drilled and the buzzing in our ears was getting to be a bit much.

Perhaps inspired by the location, perhaps moved by the pondering of earlier deep thinking architects, we relished the freedom inherent in designing and building something connected to human need, forgave ourselves in advance and dove in. Abandoning even the utility of mass shade for a deeper definition of need in the process. Truth be told we initially didn’t know exactly what we wanted to offer this particular piece of land, all we knew was that it wasn’t a tent. Please God anything but a tent.

All through its execution we were reminded of our limits and our potentials; these 10 fingers each, these 7 gathered minds all focused on solving the same problem… we had everything humans have needed to shelter themselves since the very first of us walked the Earth PLUS Revit, surely it will manifest as we planned, right? Because if it didn’t there were no clients, no inspectors, no city officials and no contractors to blame if it went wrong. And it went wrong. A few times. So we did our best to make it right which resulted in something beyond the limits of our collective vision. Something we could ultimately sit back and watch, pleasantly buzzed off the re-connect, as our Not Tents morphed into jungle gyms, meditation spaces, nap coves, mini amphitheatres, tiny parliaments and yes, even shade structures.

Peter Atkinson