Look at the cityscape. Now focus on one building. Squint if you need to. Fifteen stories. As large as the entire town you grew up in. Once it’s firmly in your mind, close your eyes.
Now see the building in memory. See it as Picasso would see it as a series of foms, of cubes, as an abstraction. See the building as a fractal, breaking into pieces. See it as a lawyer sees it, as a bundle of property rights that can be unbundled and rebundled in endless variations.
Ask yourself what the building can be—retail, office, homes. No, better yet, ask the building what it wants to be. Not the whole unified building but each constituent part.
Once each part speaks to you and tells you what it should be, then start the hard work of creating it. First as an abstraction but becoming more and more real with each thought.
See the building as Walt Whitman would. Pipes humming and wires like nerves carrying power and information to each part of it. See the building as activity. Like Whitman’s mind the building can encompass all of us within us.
Each thing has its place in the building. Here the mother with her child. There the intellectual at his papers. Merchant and lawyer; rich and poor; man, woman and child; every dog and every pigeon have their place.
The building is not office or retail or residential. Disregard the illusion of unity. You see a whole only by disregarding the parts. The building is a series of spaces, not a building. Each space has its proper use and each its proper resident. This is mine; that is yours; over there belongs to neither of us.
John P. Greenan