I have a long and fruitful relationship with daydreaming. I do not daydream just to daydream though. It is not something that I set time aside for, nor do I intentionally practice it. But daydreaming does serve a special purpose in my life; it occupies my mind, when my current task cannot. In high school, while biology and algebra were being expounded upon, I was intensely daydreaming and doodling.That was a very productive time; those doodles formed my early sense of design!
Several years ago, while stuck in a long slow line at the grocery store, I found myself deep in a daydream that mingled the view out the window, with a desk design I was struggling with. It hit me like an electric bolt! The answer to my design problem was right in front of me. The arches in the (Seattle)Aurora Bridge -- that was it! As I saw in the bridge, I added a long continuous curve to the rails connecting the legs, and the design took on life.
Just last week I started on one of the last chapters of my new book. The writing was nearing the end, but it was not going well. My brain was in a funk. I had taken on the more challenging and interesting chapters up front. My Grandpa Miller used to say "Get the hard stuff out of the way first" - and I had. But this material was simply too simple to engage my mind. And besides, I had run out of words and ideas!
Then came my Friday conference call. I was not looking forward to this at all. An hour discussing a legal document was even less appealing than banging my head against the wall to get this last chapter out. With several people on the call, I sat back and didn’t say a word.
My computer was in front of me and the internet was beckoning. In true Walter Mitty fashion, I was soon gone. The legal document was a haze in the background. Why not surf over to the G&G virtual archives and have a poke around … maybe look at the subject of this last chapter… the waterfall detail.
Amazing site, the virtual archives, you can zoom way in for incredible detail views. And that’s what I was doing, when -- WHOA- WHAT WAS THAT! Before I explain what "whoa" was about, I need to fill you in with a little background. I get all excited about design, always have. I am also a confirmed Greene & Greene fanatic. While engrossed in their designs, I can effortlessly work myself into a solid stupor.
So back to what "whoa" was. The waterfall detail, as I call it, is a small taper on the two inside faces of a lower leg. This detail was only used in the Gamble house Master bedroom, but on several pieces within that room. The taper has two unequal steps. In typical G&G fashion each step begins with a round over to soften the transition. Up to this point, I thought I knew this simple detail intimately. It’s interesting and very pleasing, but not a lot of complexity or nuance going on: hence my so-so enthusiasm to write about it.
Remember now, I am still on a conference call and am supposed to be talking about a legal document. On my screen I have zoomed way in on the waterfall detail and it is WRONG! It’s not the way I thought it should be! The unequal steps are reversed! How can that be? Well, it looks like someone was not paying attention to their work that day. Rather than correct the mistake he probably decided to move forward and hope no one will notice…… Looks like he got away with it – it’s been over 100 years.
There’s a voice in my head, something about paragraph this and line that, but this stuff on the screen is getting more interesting. I’ll take a close look at some of the other pieces…… Well look at THAT…… they’re all bad in this piece too! This guy was having a bad week! I can relate to that, but I don’t think I would have dug the hole even deeper….or
I wonder…… maybe the one I have been using as a model all these years, is the bad one. This is really getting my attention… It’s time to put this zoom feature through its paces…..
What’s going on HERE! Some are one way…..some are the other…..doesn’t make sense…. very perplexing. Finally, those voices in my head have disappeared … just about time too….. they were distracting.
Charles Greene did not design in the willy-nilly mode. He had a purpose for every little detail. This was no mistake!!!! This deserves a serious inquiry…. have I grossly underestimated this little detail?
WHOA again! ….AM I seeing that right?.... Those legs are reverse tapered!!!! Yikes!!!! What’s this – what’s going on there!!!
All at once those little synapses are firing Gatling gun style in my brain …... Ideas are formulating... Scenarios about visual weight are working out….. Time has stopped and has no meaning…. The inspiration to write is burning me up.
There are voices in my head! …..Where did they come from?..... What’s that? …"Paragraph this – line that"….. The Conference call!!!!!
Maybe I can just hang up? I have some serious writing to do!
This was one productive phone call!
This was one productive phone call!