February 05 Work Retreat
Biography - Final Thoughts
In February, I spent a week in Washington DC on a personal work retreat. This was a return, of sorts, to my early architectural roots. It was here [link] that I formulated the desire to become an architect and started down the path of my study of this art. The masthead picture (above) is the National Gallery of Art. It impressed me greatly at the time and I thought it to be one of the most perfectly built buildings in the world. I still think so. It is executed with a precision one rarely sees. This building is 65 years old [link], receives heavy use, and still looks new and beautiful down to the most intimate detail - a tribute to its design, construction and maintenance. Environments like this are not accomplished by accident. Every time I visit, I think that something must be right with a world that can make, use and keep something like this - one thinks of the concept civilization in the most positive sense of the word.
This is the view from “my desk.” I have been sitting here drawing and working in my notebooks, on and off, for over 50 years. This place never disappoints. It always inspires contemplation, thought and personal productivity. This time was no exception [link]. I spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon and outlined what I wanted to accomplish on my retreat. This is a great public space. Peaceful yet with sufficient movement of people to always keep interest high. There was a steady flow of people this Sunday.
The space absorbs the crowd with serenity - something that few buildings can accomplish. It does not overwhelm - it augments; it frames. The building is not cold, nor detached. It is “involved” yet strangely “untouched” by it all. One can imagine coming back 50 years from now and seeing this room just as it is today. If I live to be a 120, I can do this with a couple of years to spare - a worthy goal, I think.
This building is a couple of years younger than I am. We have both witnessed an interesting time of incredible change - change that is about to accelerate by an order of magnitude. What constitutes - what makes continuity? What creates a space of where we have been? In a world of increasing change, increasing de-materialization, increasing abstractness, what provides a solid point of reference - a base line? What provide a common experience that can be shared by all. This is what public spaces do. They are social amatures [link].
This piece is about my “final” thoughts in regards my biography. I may return to this subject later in my life but it is done, except for the filling in of it (which is still a massive amount of work) - for now. My journey in architecture started in this building as much as any place that I can name. It was here that the idea of a serious life became present to me. It was here, and playing in the Pentagon, that I glimpsed a global reality. It was here that I realized that the world we live in was made by us; that, there was an accumulated value largely left untapped. These were revaluations. Like Taliesin [link], I have not returned too often. Unlike Taliesin, this place remains intact.

Mercury under the grand dome. I wonder if this is where I developed my fondness for domes. This is on of the most timeless spaces I know.

There is a new comer to the Mall and that is the National Museum of the American Indian [link].

It is the first building on the Mall built in the organic school tradition.

I compare these two buildings, built 60 plus years apart, as both architecture and social symbol in the article Making National Symbols.


There are few truly public spaces in the United States. Perhaps we are still too young to be wealthy in this respect. The Mall in Washington DC is a magnificent exception to this parsimony. Great public spaces are not easy to make. There are far more failures in the attempt than successes. The Mall succeeds. What factors make this so? It would be good if we could better understand them. It would be better if we could build more of them. Our culture needs this. My ambition is to build a public space that also is a temple of work and a place of transformation. I call this project Xanadu [link].
It is not easy to create a true public life. It has never been easy. Today is is an even greater problem than in the past. This is due to the corroding power of misused media and a body politic that thrives on sensationalism and controversy. When I first came to the National Gallery, I was an innocent. Today, I am no longer an innocent - I am still an idealist [link]. I am on the threshold of taking a more public role than in the past. How does one play a public role without being destroyed or corrupted? What factors make this possible? It would be good if we could better understand them. It would be better if more of us could practice them [link]. Our culture needs this. I have been avoiding this exposure for years. Now it has come. I will see if it is possible to do good and not harm in the exercise of whatever public presence that comes my way.
We, our civilization, are entering into the most critical stage of our existence. For good or ill, a different political, social,economic order will emerge over the next 24 years [link]. This will be determined by the “problem” we have created for ourselves - a problem defined equally by what, today, we consider good and bad conditions. Our successes in this scenario, if anything, are even more dangerous than our failures. All the aspects of this challenge are wired to one another. This, besides its global scale, is what makes it complex. Here we are in the dawn of the 21st Century consuming the Earth’s resources at a rapid rate, our economies growing at a staggering rate, our nations entering into a period of cultural wars, our traditional institutions weakened and our focus decidedly short term and pragmatic. Almost everyone on Earth is seeking the good life even though there is no way it can continue to scale and maintain its present architecture. It is indication of a SYSTEMIC situation when to do good on one level of the system creates harm on another level of the system; when leaders do harm at one part of the system to protect value at another.
What is required today is a massive re framing of how we humans typically relate to each other, our institutions and our planet. We need to take on the task of DESIGNING, as an emergent system, a planetary culture (with many healthy diverse cultures) and technical infrastructure that augments our transformed human life without destroying other life or our planet as a living thing. Today, we are still in the manic phase of growth. We are emerging from adolescence. We have to mature while not loosing our creative edge and sense of exploration. This is but another reason why space is a necessity [link]. To do this, we have to redefine what a successful life is. We have to create a method of design and decision making that brings rigor to the creation of emergent systems. We have to engage all peoples, as equals, in the process. We have to take a generation to create a new civilization. This task has to be seen as the great crusade that it is [link: a testament].
The mission of MG Taylor is to create a Method to facilitate this task and to lay the foundations of an infrastructure to support the work. The Method exists and has been tested. The infrastructure of NavCenters is just beginning to take form. The step ahead, while continuing to develop both Method and infrastructure, is twofold: bring the philosophy upon which this work is based alive in our culture and to build a number of projects/enterprises that exemplify solutions of a new kind. In a word, MG Taylor has to apply the tool we have created to the entire spectrum, education to built examples. This is the work of the next 25 years.
This requires of me that I take on a new role. This role, also, has two aspects. One is to practice as an architect of new enterprises and new environments. The second is to become a spokesman for a new movement. Both are challenging; the latter is the greater challenge. I have said that the creation of one’s own life is an individual’s greatest creative act. I have worked diligently to become the person that I am today and remain a work in progress. The out there, up front leadership role has never been my disposition. I have many of the skills for it (with some notable exceptions), not the temperament. I have always hoped that someone to fill this inevitable role would emerge in time. Our Enterprise is developing in this regard yet the gap remains. It seems that I must fill it - if only for awhile. The vision of a transforming global infrastructure has long been my personal passion. At least for awhile, I must be the one to speak for it.
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Matt Taylor
Washington DC
February 13, 2005


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posted February 13, 2005

revised April 5, 2005
• 20030213.308799.mt • 20050404.333309.mt •
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note: this document is about 40% finished


Copyright© Matt Taylor 2005



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