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Capturing an elusive feeling, a mood, a memory of childhood

Sometimes a place will seem familiar even though it is new to you. I am not talking about deja vu - the feeling I am describing is much more specific. It may simply belong to a fleeting moment when the conditions of the light, combined with the time of the day and your own frame of mind, are all working together, resulting in a sense of correctness. This view shown here is taken from the sea, 20m from the shore. The picture frame is divided into horizontal bands. The water itself, with a little foam from the breaking waves, eventually laps onto a horizontal band of sand. The sand tends to look vertical - it has been mounded up by the wave action and reveals above it, the tops of coloured beach umbrellas, which suggest a horizontal plane that is out of view. This band is a symbol of human occupation and is subject to variation, according to the time of day. The colours it contains are random and depend totally on the taste of the people who bought the umbrellas.

Similarly, the spacing and placement are beyond any control. My experience of this place suggests that, visually, it is always successful, whatever the colours, patterns or placement. I think this is related to the strength of the structure of the overall panorama, which will always allow a large element of corruption. The umbrella tops contrast with a band of pine trees. Again, only the tops of the trees are visible.The trees which occupy this saline environment are a dusty green colour - the green that is very common in Moroccan tiles. They look as though they should be wiped with a damp cloth, but in reality their colour is very restful on the eye. Its faded quality gives the impression of longevity. The top band of the picture is pure azure, a colour that virtually everyone responds to in a positive way. The blue is deepened by the presence of small puffy white clouds which, like the umbrellas, define a horizontal plane.

The blue against the green is an almost perfect colour combination. The sky, of course, is transient, and as I stand in the sea, I know this vision might never recur, which gives urgency to the act of seeing.

Yet this view does exist - I knew it before I saw it, although I could never have described it; it is the view that conforms to many descriptions of perfect summer days, delivered to you by writers, poets and artists. It is the memory of childhood, coming back to you as a reminder of your own mortality. It is an indulgence for which we do not have to feel guilty. It is the essence of who we are.

Very, very occasionally, a similar happening occurs when drawing or painting. An event that suddenly makes sense of the search for a piece of architecture. It lies beyond your imagination, although it is probably deeply rooted in your cultural programming, and it seems fresh. At this point you know what to do. The work is done, the reward for the search is reaped. Then it is always wise to stop, as further immediate embellishment will destroy the moment. Relax, enjoy a glass of wine and look forward to a tough day tomorrow, as a new reality will surely test your memory of the delight of yesterday. A good project is not architecture, but simply a step toward it - a satisfying search with insights into architecture. And this can happen anywhere - even on the beach.

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