New Mexico has formed my experience in an all-pervasive sense. I don't think of New Mexico as a region. I think of it as a force that has entered my system, a force that is composed of many things. Here, one is aimed toward the sky and at the same time remains rooted in the earth with a geological and cultural past. The lessons I've learned here about responding to the forces of a place can be implemented anywhere. I don't have to invent a new methodology for new contexts. It is as if New Mexico has already prepared me.

In Australian Aboriginal dream time, songlines traverse the land and describe the geography in a way that is totally rational and yet mystically poetic. Similarly, the elemental power of this place is inescapable. In the making of architecture here, one has no choice but to deal with the basics of wind direction, movement of the sun, and other natural phenomena. But there is always another admixture that I call, in a blanket way, content. It's an aura that one cannot invoke in one's work. It's there or it isn't. It is like the idea of duende in a Flamenco performance, rendering it transcendental and timeless.

When I am working on projects with my team — and it is important to underscore the collaborative component in my work — we remind ourselves that we are involved in a timeless encounter with another place, not just a little piece of land. All of the readings that have accumulated and been assimilated there, that are imagined there, that may happen there in the future — all of these collapse in time and become the raw material with which we interact. We are not merely trying to record or express a particular epoch. The fact that we're here involves a mediating layer. I'm this gringo from nowhere, with Chaco Canyon culture out there dating from the eleventh century, with even earlier vestiges around the West, and descendants of those cultures around me. This, for me as an "American," carries a certain burden.

When I am involved in the making of something, the making of an object, where the making has a quality of innocence, where the gestural aspect of, say, making a clay model has an affinity with one's hand-writing — with the presumed innocence of one's signature. That signature is part of the physiology of making something. In my case, whether it is a painting or a clay model or a collage, it becomes the beginning, the source for the project. Rather than being a highly rational methodology, my process remains connected to spirit through the body and to the personal space that the body defines. The trick is getting through the thicket of what Kahn called "the measurable" in the making of a building, to come out the other side with the original content, the original aura intact, for the built work to express that initial physical and spiritual impulse.

Lessons learned in the American Southwest apply anywhere in the world - my "regionalism" is portable.




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