1952 - 2007
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 todays 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
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 dont 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
certainly is art.
An individual work certainly must satisfy its
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.
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...].
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 its practice. They suggest
a way to think about and act upon the PLANET as a single habitat.
have long believed that a professional is charged
not only with practicing a profession but
also with teaching and transferring that professions
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, its 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 architects
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
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.
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.
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
its 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
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
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.
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.
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 works 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 its
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.
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.
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.
|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.
March 24, 2001
voice of this document:
VISION STRATEGY EVALUATION
November 25, 2001
May 26, 2007
• 20060601.534221.mt • 20070526.671111.mt •
this document is about 95% finished
Taylor 615 525 7053
Matt Taylor 2001, 2002, 2006