1952 - 2007
Taylor Architecture
N a r r a t i v e
n e w xi n t r o d u c t i o n
What is now the Taylor Architecture practice evolved slowly over 50 years. It is not, in the specific, what I had in mind when I started out [link: the promise] - yet, the practice today is totally consistent with a youthful vision that I am still seeking and beginning to achieve [link: what do you want]. I call this effort and Venture: Taylor Architecture because it is the consequence of my art, my way of working and my philosophy of life and business even as it is a collaborative practice as it would have to be to make these values real. I do not personally use the term “architect” for two reasons: I do not consider what I do to be in line with what this term now describes; and, I am not licensed as an architect nor do I have a degree in this subject. I do not have hostility to architects and admire many of them. I consider what they do, and how they do it, to be different in intent, spirit and consequence than what I am seeking to accomplish [future link]. At many specific levels our paths meet - systemically, we are going in a different direction. Taylor Architecture, of course, practices legally in every state and country that we do work. Use of the work “Taylor” does not refer to me, personally. It refers to a PRACTICE Model (i.e. the application of the MG Taylor System and Method to the practice of architecture, building and the use/management of real estate), and a philosophy of architecture that has been carefully developed over a 50 year plus period.
It may be that my view of architecture may prevail. It may not. It is not worth the effort and conflict to fight this battle head on. It is better to offer another viewpoint and and make an example of an alternative practice. The typical architect today has become a node in a complex supply chain. If I were to name my approach, I would use the term Master Builder. There are two things wrong with this. First is seems a bit pretentious in a modern context. Second it is the master builder function that I am getting at and this no longer can be performed by a single person by fiat. I like the term system integrator but this is usually not understood either. So, Taylor Architecture will have to do because when I am around, no matter what specific role I take in the process, this is what happens - and, when I am not around it does not. It is, thus, an individual perspective that comes about by collaborative means and always by a ValueWeb - each project, usually, employing a different ad-hoc team.
I mean these words to be taken literally and in this world of pop business models and instant cliches the doing of this practice is much more radical than the telling of it. Most architectural and building firms cooperate today by necessity - this is not what I am talking about.
My first design, that was built, was drawn by me in 1953 (and built three years later without my involvement) - it is the second project in the Taylor Architecture INDEX. I started working in architecture in June, 1956. As I write these words, it is nearly June, 2006, nearing the completion of my 50th working year. As of this writing, there are 157 projects listed - 40 of these produced in the last two and a half years. The composition of these projects show not only the times in which they were produced they reveal two things about myself. First, how I prepared to do this work and second what architectural issues became important to me as I did so. As I have said, the idea of Planetary Architecture emerged from experience - I never started out thinking about architecture this way nor was it ever a professional goal. My practice model [link: basic architectural practice] also came to me slowly and is in fact the antithesis of the one I started with - which was the “Great Man” do it my way model typical of the time and still prevalent among those who have achieved the status enabling them to get away with it.
In a typical practice, of the duration of my efforts to date, several hundred buildings should have been designed with a fair number of them built. My production is not nearly been this high although it is now reaching a rate that could change this very quickly if it maintains. There are a large number of swimming poll and landscape projects - over 75 - done in my Phoenix years, that are represented only by two listings in the Index. In 1971, when I moved to kansas City, I lost all of my drawings so the first 36 projects listed have to be redrawn from memory. To include all of these “outdoor” projects would be impossible and redundant to the main theme of this story.
There are three different components necessary to the telling of this history: The Index, Projects Descriptions, and this Narrative. Because of technical issues - related to length - each of these are divided into parts. I have taken some care in the making of these divisions so that they help reveal the content, by grouping projects into eras, rather than obscure it.
The Index is in reverse chronological order. It is presently in three parts: 2006 - 2007 and going forward starting with project 150; 1983 - 2005 - projects 75 through 149; 1952 - 1982 - projects 1 through 75. The Index allows scrolling down a column which shows an image of the project, the number, title and date. This provides a quick overview of the entire body of work and reveals patterns that otherwise would not be seen: periods where a certain kind of work grabbed my attention, or when different architectural issues became important to me, periods of activity and rest - times of building and times of no client work. The Work Number, of each of these Projects, provides a link to that project in Projects Descriptions. The graphic is also a hot spot usually linked to the Program Statement and Project web site if they exist. At the bottom of each Index URL a link is provided to the prior or next project in order.
link to Architectural Index
Projects Descriptions is in chronological order, provides a graphic, title, client name, project location, design-build-use team members, currant project status, a brief description and sometimes personal remarks. Links are provided, as with the Index, to additional materials and also to other Taylor Projects where connections are relevant. Project Descriptions, for length reasons, are in groups of 8 to 15 projects in the most relevant way possible. At the beginning and end of each of these groupings, are comments which are supplemental to this Narrative. From time to time, links are provided to subjects which I consider relevant to a project.
link to Projects Descriptions
This Narrative, itself, is organized in two ways. First, in project groupings, to illustrate architectural ideas as they emerged, evolved and are expressed in various projects; and second, further explanation of individual projects to highlight their unique features and place within the whole body of work. Again, for length reasons, the Narrative will be dived into parts, each organized to reveal some theme or point of view.
I consider architecture to be far more complex and important than the general conception of it. It is one of the handful of subjects that not only support but define and shape a culture. The purpose of these Indexes and Narrative to to show one approach to the practice of this difficult art and the consequences which flow from this practice model. I hope to have you think about practice models in a new way. To realize that there are many and that there is choice involved. That these models produce different results - some of which are better than others. If I achieve this, I will have achieved my purpose.
Matt Taylor
June 1, 2006
o r i g i n a l xi n t r o d u c t i o n
2 0 0 1

This Narrative spans a period of over 50 years and covers 115 projects to date. It starts, in 1952, when I decided to become and architect and it comes to this moment in time - mid 2002 - when I am beginning to become one.

Wright said to take a long time to become an architect - I do not know if 50 years is what he had in mind - I certainly did not. Every time my heuristic search pattern took me off on what I thought might be a detour it turned out - in the end - to lead right back on course. It is just now, that the totality of what this “course” really is, is starting to become clear. This is an extraordinary statement because - on another level - what I was doing at any moment (and WHY) - was extremely “clear” to me. I never was wandering around in the dark. I was always thoughtful and intentional in my actions. However, it is only by looking back and forward [link: a future by...] at once can I see the “big” ideas emerge allowing all the subordinate pieces fall into an integrated pattern. It is also a factor that, just now, the conditions of Earth, as a social-economic-ecological system, are such that the notion of a planet as an human artifact [link: planetary architecture] can even be discussed let alone acted upon.
If I had pursued a “normal” career, I would have built 200 to 300 projects by now and designed nearly a thousand. I have done far fewer projects than that and all of the built works are small and “insignificant” in terms of budget and scale (although not necessarily so in terms of relevance and ultimate impact). This narrative covers 115 works, most of them not built, a small number by normal practice standards. The significance of the work is not each individual piece, alone - it is the work as a WHOLE that tells the important story. My work is not only about the making of individual buildings and interiors it is about how all human built work adds up to a planetary artifact. My work is about the economics, ecology and USE of architecture as it fits into and is an expression of a social system.
The nearly 23 years - when I thought was a side track - which I devoted to building MG Taylor Corporation - I was concerned about being “away” from architecture. MG Taylor is turning out to be a key factor in my “return” to architecture - in reality, I know now, I never left it. The “exit” from MG Taylor and the “entry” back into architecture is hand and glove - one is the mirror of the other. For awhile (over the next 4 years or so), I will be pursuing both tracks “full time.” This is not without complication but only because of the organizational and practice models prevalent in today’s society. However, the very close linkage between MG Taylor and my emerging architectural practice is truly a surprise and was not intended or planned. I expected a successful MG Taylor to provide a means to architecture. Instead, the Architectural practice is a strong factor in the transformation of an almost successful MG Taylor into a viable ValueWeb. Both, now, form one path to my long-held personal vision.
I am telling this as a story because that is what it is: a quest to find the Architectural Grail. There are so many facets that even now, after all these years, I wonder about possible missing pieces. I don’t know of any - yet, I still wonder. The past half century has been full of surprises and twists and turns even as logical it looks in retrospect. As I learned the need for and built new skills, the “problem” - what is architecture and how do you do it - grew at an ever faster rate. The more knowledge I gained just seemed to make the problem bigger. This took me to ever expanding new areas: from traditional architecture, to building, to developing, to manufacturing, to using architectural space to conduct work - on and on. Now, all these aspects seem to me necessary for even the making of a simple work. Architecture, today, demands a practice scope that greatly exceeds both the prevailing concept of architecture and the available means for getting it done.
If I had seen less, in this regard, I would been “successful” sooner. However, I did not and do not see less. I always saw the “whole,” in one sense, even as I was discovering “more.” That is the long and the short of it. Now, things are what they are. The issues I have been addressing - learning to address - have always seemed totally relevant - to me. To our society at large, they have not been so important. This seems to be rapidly changing - I hope it is because I do not know how we can have a living planet in 25 years if not. And, like all changes that have been institutionally resisted “successfully,” when the change comes it comes like a flood. “Suddenly,” this becomes a “problem” of another kind. I have spent a lifetime getting ready. Now, I wonder if I can to build the capacity to deal with the volume, scale and scope of the work that is coming my way and what has to be done to sustain doing it. Building this capacity, of course, is what the last 25 years have been about and what a ValueWeb is supposed to do. Still...
How do you make progress in an area that is not even seen as a problem by the vast majority of people was my starting question. 50 years ago I looked at urban sprawl, the ugly matchbook houses, pollution and traffic snares as a horror - the result of atrocious design. Apparently, most others did not. They did not like them, but they did not see them as related to any action they took or choices they could made. The new question is how do you gather the ability to respond and do it quickly? ValueWebs are the best answer I know - now it is time to build them. Thus, Habitat Makers which is a ValueWeb dedicated to the making of architecture in its fullest sense.
In 2001, I spoke at a conference pointing out some of the innumerable unintended consequences of the “new” (so called) economy - no one disagreed. Their question was, however, “how do you even begin to get you arms around it?” “How can I do anything?” Of course, I have been asking this question - and acting on it - for a long time. What does this mean to others? Their dilemma is but one example of how affluent professionals feel trapped in a system they cannot understand nor change. This issue is one addressed in my ReBuilding the Future Course.
The issue is the definition of proper scope of architecture in general and for each individual project in the specific case. This is a primary question central to beginning every work in any field. Clearly, today, the marketplace does not award anything of broad scope or great connectivity This is even true in the world of computer “systems” which are hardly systems at all. This lack of comprehensive interconnectedness is one reason why we have gotten so little NET benefit from so much genius and innovation. It is also why we, as a society, are buried in systemic problems and their unintended consequences. Incremental solutions generate more incremental problems.
Architecture certainly is art. An individual work certainly must satisfy it’s occupant and local community. Architecture is also an integral part of the technology, economy and ecology of our planet. It is not merely “on it” it is OF it. The Earth is becoming a human artifact and we are long past where this will not be so. Everywhere billions of individual decisions are being made - some good, some bad - yet they all are adding up to a disaster. There has been no mechanism for dealing with the larger whole. The Master Planning process (Work #32), the Internet and the Taylor Method provide (some pieces of) one emerging tool kit. The question is if this tool kit and others like it will be employed in time. The reality is that this question will not be answered until at the “end.” There is no certainty nor answers in this game [link: a world by...].
I get ahead of my story. I did not start here. I got here, slowly - through a series of often painful steps. I started with the notion that the art of architecture and the utility of it were one - AND, more radically, I stared with the idea that every work should solve a problem greater than the immediate application that it materially represented. I think this is where I went “wrong” in the eyes of many. Nevertheless, every one of my one hundred plus projects address issues far larger than the immediate project itself. Together, they have a significance greater than their individual value. As a whole, they articulate a completely new approach to architecture and it’s practice. They suggest a way to think about and act upon the PLANET as a single habitat.
I have long believed that a professional is charged not only with practicing a profession but also with teaching and transferring that profession’s body-of-knowledge (as much and as fast as possible) to others. This means that the client is educated and not totally dependent on the professional and this independence means the professional gets to spend more time on producing work on the ever expanding leading edge - not endlessly repeating well worked out ideas, designs and methods. To me, each commission is the opportunity to extend and distribute knowledge be it in structure, building method, the grammar of the work, it’s aesthetics, layout or in the making of a new type of building. This full cycle of the design-build-use process defines, for me, the essence of responsible practice.
It is this later aspect - the building type and implementation method - where I have devoted much of my thought. Most of my works are based on a radical restatement of the idea of the building not just stating a different way of making an established and well known type. The economics/ecology of these works have always been of great concern to me. This has made this work difficult to get built. Despite pretense, modern buildings are not economical - they are budgeted. They “work,” economically, only because real estate tends to increase in value over time and enomous “creativity” has gone into financing schemes “enabling people to “afford” buildings they and the planet in reality cannot afford. My work, in the proposal-design phase is usually considered way too expensive and radical. The few works that have been built have been considered to be of great economic value and extremely “friendly and comfortable to be in.” Yet, it has taken until now for one work to lead easily to another. I have had the misfortune of promoting an architecture that is (apparently) too difficult to understand on paper and too radical as a concept of economy. The success of the few built works has never made it easier for the next projects because it was often concluded that they succeeded for some “special case” reason unrelated to large scale “practical” application. Each time, therefore, has been like the first time. My work requires an unusual amount of perception, knowledge and participation on the part of the client/user. There is no way around this without violating the precepts of the work itself. Fortunately, recent clients have been been just that.
Designing a building based on how it is actually used - not based on the convention of the time - has been my intention from the beginning. My first commission and built work, designed when I was in the 9th grade, involved a great deal of innovation in the plan itself and focused on use not the habit and the default design conventions of the early 1950s. I never thought to do it another way. As I am mostly self-trained, this way of working became my habit before I realized that it was not the typical approach of the profession at large despite claims about functionality.
The following story of each design is told as a personal story. The more technical descriptions, pictures and drawings can be found by following the links. My intent here is to explore the origins of the work and the complex factors - some “negative” and some “positive” - that actually gave rise to their creation.

Matt Taylor
June 30, 2002

N a r r a t i v e xo n e
three early projects
These three projects were all designed in and for Palo Alto. The architect’s office, was a study and based on a work which I liked. The second, a house, was build a few years later withhold supervision and the design was altered although the basic layout and amenity of the design was preserved. The third, my favorite of this period, was an artist’s studio which I designed just before going to Taliesin and I never learned if it was built or not. There is feeling common to all three. These are part from my youth as I explored three different building challenges from the time and place which was palo Alto in the mid 50s.
(drawing in progress)

I lived in Palo Alto from late 1951 through 1953 when we moved to San francisco. However, even after the move I spent a great deal of my time in Palo Alto until I left for Taliesin in 1958.

These were my formative years and this was the time that I migrated from the life of a student to beginning my work in architecture.

I experienced Palo Alto by walking. Palo Alto - the core part of it - was and still is a beautifully landscaped city - a village really. And, it still is a wonderful place to walk on a summer evening as the sun goes down. Naturally finished wood buildings, with large windows looking into craftsman houses with books, wood paneling, plants and cats. The smell of the flowers, redwoods, oaks and eucalyptus trees is almost overwhelming.

Architect’s Office

This was not my very first design but it was the first after I decided - for sure - to become an architect. Not unexpectedly, it was for an architect’s office based on the office of a Palo Alto architect whose work I admired. He was the first architect that I ever asked for a job. I was disappointed when he did not hire me but, from the perspective of years, I have to admire him for going thorough the interview process with a straight face with having a very earnest 12 year old boy sitting in front of him. At any rate, I was impressed by his office and based my someday-to-have studio of my own on it. There was nothing unusual about this work other than the effort I poured into it tying to make it all work out right. This work started me off on my never ending fascination with the plan. Nichols did a couple of churches that to this day are two of the nicest pieces in Palo Alto.

Residence for Major Nichols

Major Nichols - no relationship to the architect - owned and ran the school that I attended in Palo Alto - the Palo Alto Military Academy. Across the street from the school were two house and a third lot which were part of the school property. The third lot was considered too small to get a two bedroom two Bathroom house on it because of the set backs required by the building department. The Major had tried several architects and no one had been able to solve the problem. One Friday, he gave it to me to work out and I finished the job (design and model) that weekend. It was not hard to do; I eliminated hallways and built the second bathroom in a three foot wide closet space. Thinking of the bathroom conventionally is what tripped up the previous designers. The lot was too narrow for a conventional two bathroom solution. In my plan, the three basic fixtures were in a row with two large sliding doors that closed or directly opened the “bathroom” to the larger space of the guest bedroom. This eliminated the two foot clearance around the fixtures only necessary if the bathroom was actually a separate room.

This design was not a trick. I had long thought and have continued to believe the walled off separation of the bathing facilities from the bedroom area inconvenient and very limiting to the the bathing function itself. I explored this arrangement again in my 1957 Circular Hilside House study. I have often proposed a greater integration of bathroom and bedroom spaces since but have met stiff client resistance. I had the pleasure of seeing the idea beautifully applied by architect Steve Conger in a house remodel and addition that he built for John Denver in the early 1980s in Snowmass, Colorado.
This was considered radical but since it turned out that there was no other solution the house was built that way. Six months after moving in, the Major mover out of the larger, conventional bedroom with it’s own separate bath and into the guest room - he found it much more convenient. I was very pleased with this result.
Studio for Betty Blankenship

The Studio for Betty Blankenship came along as I was preparing to go to Taliesin. It is simple work and one that has a number of nuances. Betty was an artist and wanted a Studio in her back yard to fill three functions: A place to paint, a place to hang her work and a place for evenings of intelligent conversation with friends. Apparently the main house - or her businessman husband - did not serve this purpose. I was never sure of the exact reasons but found the mix of program elements a good one and suitably challenging.

The Blankenships owned a large Bay Area Shingle Style house in Palo alto that had a deep back yard. There were several large trees on the property. It was a great setting for a Studio/retreat. The resulting design is an intimate space of simple materials and few modern amenities. Heating was from the fireplace and floor heating beneath the common brick floor.
Lighting was a challenge as the back yard was fairly dark - which gave it a cozy feel. Almost all natural light was designed to come in through the top of the building. There were clear story windows all around and skylights over the Main Room and the Gallery area. All light at all times of day and night would have been filtered and indirect.
My solution was mix of Usonian House and Bay Area shingle style. I had - and still do - a strong feeling for the work. Perhaps it was because I was getting ready to leave for Taliesin or just the gestalt of the elements driving the work itself. At any rate it meant a great deal to me. I would build it today just the way I designed it with few modifications. What is the work’s significance in the greater sense? I think the intimacy of the work. If built (and I do not know if it was or not), I believe it would have perfectly achieved it’s program in a direct, light and simple way. I think it would have been a building to sit in for hours. It would have created PLACE without imposing itself on those within it. In this regard, it remains one of my best efforts.
The Blankenship Studio was my first use of the hexagonal module. I had first seen this employed in the Hanna house at Stanford University a few years earlier (my first experience of a Frank Lloyd House). I have used it many times since. It nicely facilitates the expression of refuge and serenity. In addition, I used this module in scores of swimming pool and outdoor landscape projects that are not documented on this web site. This module has been employed in nearly a quarter of my work, however, in many cases - most, actually - I used the more complex “multi-module” schema rather than a simple hexagon.
The Studio, in my mind still today, has a deep Bay Area feeling about it. I had lived in Palo Alto and San Francisco for 6 years when I designed it. Yet it seemed that the SENSE of the place came to me most powerfully when I designed this building. It was as if all the idioms (shingle style, Maybeck, Wooster, Eichler, Wright, Hillmer, Callister) that made the Bay Area, architecturally, came together as a gestalt. I was also deep into the music of Beethoven for the first time and he provided the serenade while I worked. The redwoods, Oaks and smell of the eucalyptus trees, fogy mornings and sunny cool days - all these sensual elements are in the design.
the three together...
I feel a building when I design it. I can feel its materials being shaped as I draw it. I also feel the site and the social-cultural milieu where the building is to sit. These feelings never go away and when I go back to a place, the designs come to mind. When I think of past designs, their place springs to mind as a fresh living experience. They are forever locked in my memory and present like an expertises from last week. Sometimes this can actually be painful. Early works are like a first love - the experience cannot be repeated. They retain an innocence and nostalgia that has its own favor and signature. It is like the youth that I was is forever sealed in these works. When I revisit them, I bring back all the years and aspirations in between. Nothing has changed and everything has. In this, there is not real sense of past, present and future - there is only one moment.
Matt Taylor
Palo Alto
March 24, 2001

SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted: November 25, 2001

revised: May 26, 2007
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note: this document is about 95% finished

Matt Taylor 615 525 7053


Copyright© Matt Taylor 2001, 2002, 2006


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