SHADOW PATTERNS can merge and change to make an oriental carpet of light on the floor. Glass window walls may reveal a panoramic mural of a far horizon, a glimpse of a place always to be desired, never to be reached. A staircase can rise and swoop through a room, immovable movement, practical sculpture. A stove can warm not only the feet but the spirit.
These are not grandiose delights, in no way to be compared with saving cities, restoring the downtown and deveoping a complete philosophy explaining the beginning and end of modern architecture.
In the past year, the American Institute of Architects has been, as they say, "Celebrating Architecture" with banners, dinners and much talk about the profundities. There's always a great deal of fuss about "architectural statements", the validity of historicism; is modern architecture dead but won't lie down?
It's time to worry about different concerns. Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, the German Bauhaus architect, said, "God is in the details." Hugh Newell Jacobsen waved at his 9-foot-high custom door and said, "Save $50 on the door and ruin the room." This is the year to worry about saving energy, pleasing people, and enticing individuals with good, workable design, not entertaining other architects.
These concerns guided William Caudill, a Houston architect, and Jacobsen, a Washington architect, as chairmen of the juries selecting a group of new buildings and a group of old but rejuvenated buildings to receive the 1979 American Institute of Architects honor awards. Fifteen buildings, six of them old, were selected from 300 entries from all over the country. The awards were significantly lopsided-eight were by Massachusetts erchitects.
Caudill was particularly pleased with the diversity of the new buildings honored."Good design is not dependent upon size and type. I might add, good design is not dependent upon cost. The cost of one project went to nine digits. Another to only four. . . ."
But Caudill thought too few of the entries seriously considered the high cost of energy. "Perhaps one reason for the lack of energy-conscious design is that most projects were conceived before the energy crunch," he said. "We did find a few daylighted buildings. One little house had a potbellied stove and no electricity." He also deplored the lack of regional styles, buildings based on differing needs because of climate and way of life.
Jacobsen, who is well known for his elegant remodelings of Georgetown and Chevy Chase houses here, said that this year most of the rejuvenated buildings were monumental- concert halls, museums and the ilk. There were few projects submitted for small apartment buildings, little shops, individual houses. Again, this is perhaps because of the time lag. The awards always seem to reflect work done some years back. Design, building and even submitting entries are not overnight projects.
Caudill, for one, wished that more attention was paid to function and less to form. "If architects would only spend more time thinking about their client's problems," Caudill said, "they might find out that new forms evolved easily out of the solutions."
It's simplistic but true to say that if the houses or the buildings are workable and honest, the street will be beautiful and safe, and the city will be a good place to live. Architecture, like love and charity, should begin at home.
Two excellent examples of the joys of designing small won awards. As you might expect, the innovative houses were designed by architects for their own families.
Arne Bystrom of Seattle designed an 18-foot cube-a two-story house for himself and his wife and two children. The site is spectacular-a steep, rocky cliff on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. The site was all but impossible to reach. His family wouldn't let him cut the trees or buildoze the land. There was no power or piped water.
He designed and built the house himself to fit that particular site with its problems and assets. The result is a house that looks as though it grew up with the tress and has always been neighbor to the rocks. Not only is the house a fantasy fullfilled, it even works well.
"The house was designed as a passive solar collector . . . so efficent that a fire is rarely needed in the stove," Bystrom said. Central to his stealing from the sun is the transparent acrylic roof supported on cedar beams. "On sunny days the cabin temperature is controlled by cracking the upper and lower doors. The vertical shape of the cabin encourages fluelike circulation of sea breezes."
Because of the deciduous tree cover, the house is sheltered under a green umbrella in the summer, yet open to the welcome sun in winter. Cooking and refrigeration runs off butane. A Finnish sauna (fueled by wood) serves for bathing. The jury said, "This is what Thoreau would have liked to do."
The other house, the R.D. Lindstron residence, is also on a wooded waterfront site, this on Bainbridge Island, Wis. It has a peaked translucent roof, supported on laminated beams. This roof is actually an umbrella, if you will, over the house proper: a box with a roof/ceiling, walls and floor. The box hangs from the post and beam structure. The house sits on posts so the land will not be disturbed.
The large, expensive structures also have good ideas tucked here and there as well.
The Joan Miro Foundation Center for Studies of Contemporary Art in Mont Jiuch Park, Barcelona, Spain, was designed by Sert, Jackson and Associates of Cambridge. The same architectural firm also won an award for Harvard University's Undergraduate Science Center. The Miro center, the jury comment points out, has as much gallery space as the East Building of the National Gallery of Art here but cost much less. Daylight come in through glass areas opening to the courts. traditional to Catalan, and through skylights in half barrel vaults that push above the roof.
The $100 million Citicorp Center in New York is by Hugh Stubbins and Associates, Inc., of Cambridge. The center, or really an enclosed city, manages to offer a life during work instead of sending people off to toil in numbered file folders. The office tower itself is elevated 114 feet above the street on four piers. A lower building of seven floors has a central atrium, glassed over at the top. Around this galleria are all sorts of enticing restaurants and food stalls. Adjacent is a magnificent church ornamented with the work of Louise Nevelson.
Johns-Manville World Headquarters in Jefferson County, Colo., by Architects Collaborative of Cambridge can hardly pretend it is a natural object, with its exterior of polished aluminum and mirrored glass. But it is sited into the hillside to be less obtrusive and perhaps to save a hit of energy.
Several buildings are for campuses, perhaps reflecting the tuition prices of today. Pembroke dormitories at Brown University, Providence, R.I., offer students groupings to form communities-and even movable closets to help divide rooms from roommates who play the stereo late. Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, then of Cambridge, now of San Francisco, were the architects.
Angela Athletic Facility of St. Mary's College Notre Dame, Ind., was designed by C.F. Murphy Associates of Chicago in the paint-the-pipe-red, let-it-all-hang-out school.
The Yale University Center for American Arts, New Haven, Conn., was designed by Herbert S. Newman Associates of New Haven. The new auditorium is under an important old sculpture court with its giant elms.
The museums also seem to have building money.
The Louisville (Ky.) Museum of Natural History and Science, designed by Louis and Henry, also of Louisville, was put together out of five 100-year-old warehouses.
An addition to and restoration of Mechanics Hall of Worcester, Mass., (built in 1857) was designed by Anderson Notter Finegold, Inc. Their solution to the problem of safety requirements was to build a new lobby with two staircases and an elevator. The exterior wall is glass to avoid obscuring the old facade. Light is concentrated on the old building. The architect says the lobby is "more like a porch than a room. Energy requirements are minimal."
The St. Louis Art Museum was remodeled by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates by judicious pruning of the fasle limbs and leaves of plaster and protubrances that have grown up in its 70 years. New, modern lighting was added but the mechanical and other works were concealed.
The Chicago Public Library and Cultural Center was designed in 1894 by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. The Tiffany domes, dark for 40 years, have been backlighted and the mosaics and ornamental plaster work restored.
The Portland, Ore., Transit Mall is the only one of its kind, sadly. This pleasant space to wait for a bus is 22 blocks long, brightened with banners, flowers, trees, information kiosks, vendors, fountains, sculptures and, perhaps best of all, a roof against the rain and snow. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's Portland office designed the facility.
(No building honor awards were won by anyone near Washington, though Washington did have four new fellows honored this year: Isham O. Baker, Arthur Cotton Moore, Robert. Calhoun Smith and Everett G. Spurling Jr. I.M. Pei, architect of the East Building, won the highest award of all, the gold medal.
And the National Endowment for the Arts will receive a medal for its Architecture, Planning and Design Program based here.)
So what's next in architecture? If we're fortunate, we'll have a new generation of ideas, based not on some past pastiche but a new acceptance of architecture as the art that works. CAPTION: Picture 1&2, Grandiose delights and simple light: Two award winners are the Chicago Public Library (above) and the Arne Bystrom family cabin on the Pacific Coast.; Picture 3, The Joan Miro art center.