We used to joke about this behind the good professor’s back, coming up with inane metaphors such as “House As A Place To Live,” or “House As A House,” or my personal favorite, “House As A Final Project”.
|Frank Lloyd Wright designed this|
windmill on his Wisconsin farm
in 1897; its juxtaposition of
angles and circles reveals Wright's
metaphor of "Romeo and Juliet"
Too much far-out Berkeley schooling? You decide.
To succeed over the long haul—not just for a few faddish years—a design must have integrity. The overarching metaphor accomplishes this by providing a touchstone that can be referred to whenever there’s a design decision to be made. Frank Lloyd Wright was quite keen on metaphors, having variously compared his buildings to birds, to trees—even to Romeo and Juliet. Wright felt that a building should be an integral, organic whole, not a collection of parts, and his metaphorical choices were crucial to that integrity.
|New York's Woolworth Building was conceived as a|
"Cathedral of Commerce"—and looks it.
(Architect: Cass Gilbert, 1913)
On the other hand, if you’ve chosen “House As A Springing Leopard” as your guiding metaphor, you’re going to go for that vaulted ceiling, aren’t you? The dynamic nature of your metaphor fairly demands it. Without this kind of touchstone—a term I prefer to metaphor—a designer is adrift in a sea of choices, without any rational framework against which to measure his decision.
Of course, it’s absolutely crucial that your metaphor be a true reflection of your personality and your wishes. If you’re addicted to hobnobbing, choosing “House As A Quiet Repose” would just be self-delusional. Maybe what you really want is “House As Grand Central Station,” or something like that.
|Perhaps the most famous architectural metaphor,|
"A House Is A Machine for Living In", is embodied
in Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, Poissy (1931)
Of course it’s possible to create a successful design without a metaphor, just as it’s possible to be a successful person—perhaps even a president—without integrity. Eventually, however, a lack of same will come to haunt both the building and the person who’s managed to succeed without it.