Deconstructionist pt. V





The wall opposite the hearth pulses light, my head and shoulders cut sharply in shadow. I am a man, former architect. Everything else is mystery. Warmth from the fire marches over me, into me. I stare into it, captivated by its light and color, its disorder. In the next room a harsh rectangle of silver light is etched into the wall. I rise and walk toward it. The glass is cold and fogged. Beyond are white-capped trees and snowy rooftops, glinting particles of light. Bookcases dominate the wall opposite the window and I stand before them as if naked before strangers. They know me but I don’t know them. I don’t even know myself; the books are supposed to remind me. I take down a large, handsome volume: Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect. I open to a random page by the light of the window and begin reading.

Page 161: Throughout his life as an architect, Wright attempted to relate the spaces and forms of his designs to the structures and materials with which they were made. Wright believed this was essential if his buildings were to be edifying for those who inhabited them: aedificare, the ancient word for building, means both to edify (instruct) and to build (construct) with an ethical intention. Wright engaged in a constant search for a comprehensive order that would encompass both composition and construction, an order similar to the fusion of structure, material, form, and space that he found in his studies of nature.

I remember nothing of my career, my creations. Reality is dreamlike. Events and situations unfold then wash away entirely. A warm breath on the window fogs it. Nearby a radio plays a man’s voice. Twenty-eight degrees, he says. The book is filled with large photos and I admire them. I am often angered by the memory loss, saddened, fatigued, but fortified by the notion that I might uncover the hidden jewel to unlock everything. The answers are buried inside me, inside the books.

Page 87 – As we have seen, Wright’s public buildings invariably focus on introspective, top-lit central spaces, protected by solid walls that deny eye-level views outwards. Introverted at ground level with their closed exteriors and open centers, these buildings are vertically oriented, opening up and out, directed towards the sky.

Trankworth—I remember the name but nothing else. I built it. Perhaps it was a success. It does not matter. It’s a ghost that haunts. Surrounded by ghosts, I am also a ghost. I stopped writing when days passed after adding nothing to the pages. Nothing to recall into print. I often smile but not in moments like this, by the window with a book, nor at the hearth, watching the flames. The souls of the ancients remain alive in the flames, and to flames I shall also go.

Page 63: With his statements, and more importantly with his own design works of this period (c.1908), Wright sought to reclaim ancient architecture for those who would examine it analytically, searching for the underlying principles that shaped it; to accomplish this he could not allow ancient architecture to be claimed and defined by those merely seeking models for copying.

A man’s legacy is his contribution to history. His history is what he leaves behind. The world of light beyond the window seems an abstraction. So much history. I once moved through that world a claimant. The weight of the world belongs to each inhabitant. I don’t remember why I built but there was a purpose. The man on the radio says, probably a good day to stay inside

Page 225: Approaching [Taliesin West] through the desert, we first see it silhouetted against the low mountains immediately behind, its materials and colors drawn from the material site itself, and its broken, serrated profile intended to merge with the desert.

The window is cold, my legs are tired from standing. I return the book to the shelf. My arms sigh in relief. I revisit the hearth and poke the logs. I know how to do this. I watch the fire and merge with it. Silence and stillness weave a path and time escapes me.

The wall opposite the hearth pulses with light, my head and shoulders cut sharply in shadow. I am a man, former architect. All else is mystery. Warmth from the fire marches over me, into me. I stare into it, captivated by its light and color, its disorder. I am tired. In the next room a harsh rectangle of gray light is etched into the wall. I rise and walk toward it. The glass is cold and fogged. Beyond are white-capped trees and snowy rooftops, glinting particles of light. Bookcases dominate the wall opposite the window and I stand before them as if naked before strangers. They know me but I don’t know them. I don’t even know myself; the books are supposed to remind me. I take down a small, neat volume: The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard. I open to a random page by the light of the window and begin reading.

Page 43: There is nothing like silence to suggest a sense of unlimited space. Sounds lend color to space, and confer a sort of sound body upon it. But absence of sound leaves it quite pure and, in the silence, we are seized with the sensation of something vast and deep and boundless.

I know silence. I know it in spaces and in myself. I am a house, my life is a home that has been rearranged beyond comprehension. A light burns eternal in its attic-a sole occupant there hard at work. Papers and debris scatter the floor endlessly. The worker is confused and loses time. He loses focus. Again he is lost.

Page 15: The house we were born in is more than an embodiment of home, it is also an embodiment of dreams. Each one of its nooks and corners was a resting place for daydreaming. And often the resting place particularized the daydream. Our habits of a particular daydream were acquired there. The house, the bedroom, the garret in which we were alone, furnished the framework for an interminable dream, one that poetry alone could succeed in achieving completely.

Beyond the window men and women move about the world with their memories intact, accessible. Perhaps they take their memories for granted. I don’t remember if I did or not. Perhaps Bachelard can tell me, or one of the others. Shapes and angles, those were my life. Principles, ideals, realism—and their invaluable synthesis. Now what is my life? The enduring change of the seasons, the endearing breath of night. Absence populates most everything. Biology is my only schedule.

Page 41: Winter is by far the oldest of the seasons. Not only does it confer age upon our memories, taking us back to a remote past but, on snowy days, the house too is old. It is as though living in the past of centuries gone by.

The window is cold and my back is tired. I return the book to the shelf, my elbows sigh in relief. I revisit the hearth and carefully add a log. I know how to do this. I watch the fire and merge with it. Time escapes me.


Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, Boston, 1958.
McCarter, Robert, Frank Lloyd Wright, Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1997.




Deconstructionist, pt. IV


Sunlight at my window wakes me. I sit then stand, feeling the blood bound through my body, familiar aches at my back, my shoulder. The floor is cold beneath me. I reach for a glass of water and see the notebook stark atop the white wood of the nightstand. I wonder why I remember the notebook but can’t remember my name.

Writing began as an exercise last winter but quickly developed into something much different, the nature of which eludes me still. I never wrote much of anything up to that day in January when I happened on an empty notebook in my library and began, at a colleague’s recommendation, to write down my fondest memory. Thus what I remembered of the Trankworth’s unveiling in L.A. unfurled from my consciousness with immediacy, as if water poured from a bucket, and my memories, granular in detail, inundated the pages of the notebook.

I wrote as I remembered, adding and supplanting for clarity, precise and meticulous with details so as to insure them, immortalize them, never again worry about chasing them through the narrowing corridors of memory.

Next I turned my attention to other memories and attacked them with equal zeal and attention, starting with the most powerful and lucid, using the notebook as collector, curator, friend. I cursed myself for not having thought to catalog my memories earlier. Emotions overwhelmed me. Details obsessed me. My attention gradually shifted to language as I beheld a newfound appreciation for and devotion to its nuances, its capabilities. I broke it down to fragments to better understand and utilize it for my memories, my notebook.

The project inspired in me a renewed sense of purpose after all had once seemed lost. I wrote with energy, violent when necessary, using the pages as scratchboard, bandage. Never before had I known the intimacy possible between man and page.

In the kitchen I forget how I like my coffee and drink it black, writing about a dream from last night: I’d been commissioned as a young man to design and build a clock tower in Sweden in collaboration with a pair of renowned Swedes hired to build the clock. Men were contracted and materials were purchased and the project proceeded on time and budget until the Swedes abruptly bailed near completion, leaving me to either complete the tower without the clock or try and build the clock myself.

Rather than proceed sensibly I chose instead to try building the clock, attacking it with more passion than I placed in the tower, working all day and deep into nights with the gears and levers of the clock until a system emerged. The tower’s public unveiling approached and I wasn’t near completion, insisting the tower be opened without fanfare or celebration while I continued to solve the riddle of the clock. At dream’s end I’d become an old man still living on a small mattress in the top of the tower, working tirelessly at his obsession, and later, just a rumor or vapor on the neck of someone tasked with cleaning out the abandoned tower where that sad man once lived.

Sunlight fades at the kitchen window and I rub the pain from my hand, scanning my mind for memories to transcribe. I contemplate everything I’ve forgotten and finish the coffee, ready to begin the day. In the library a meager wooden shelf supports the notebooks. I think of all the duplicated memories written inside them, wondering if it’s just the same few repeated over and over. Why continue this kaleidoscopic mockery of the past if not to lose myself deeper in the labyrinth?

Days are casual. Dusk signals pensive marathons by candlelight. Time is the anti-rhythm of scratching on pages as if scratching at the earth, but to uncover what?

Deconstructionist, pt. III


A memory plagued with holes rendered my creative apparatus impotent, and I retired within the year. It was by far the most difficult decision I’ve made. My colleagues provided support at a respectful distance as I pondered the end of a career, the end of a lifetime of designing and constructing. All I’d ever known was that I was alive and I was a builder. But that foundation was now gone, forcing me to discover something else, to be something else.

Brain damage due to seizures cast the world into a pall both surreal and morose. I maintained my office much as if working normally. It gave me an objective each day and held me close to the creative process. I observed my peers and encouraged them as I continued to lose clarity and understanding. At night idleness assailed me and I wandered the rooms of my home looking for anything of interest, picking books from shelves and walking about with them, reading aloud. I chose not to sleep but rather use my waking time searching those winter months for a new reason to live.

Deconstructionist, pt. II


Years passed and I worked steadily to hoist my reputation back to respectability, reemerging into culture slowly at first, cautiously, then embracing an awkward public image, stoic but proud of my achievements and (sparse) praise from my contemporaries. Perhaps what I am most proud of during that period isn’t that my name was synonymous with genius but with decency. The product of obsessive work afforded me material luxuries far beyond my modest means, so I opened an architecture school in Los Angeles and donated sums to several charities there. I hadn’t any use for money beyond what my work demanded of me, and neither did I seek love or romance in my life beyond what building always supplied. I was alone but social, confused by most everything beyond architecture and forms, contented in solitude and absolute creative freedom.

Three days before my fortieth birthday I suffered a stroke and woke in the hospital to what I can only describe as a brighter world. A strange natural light permeated the room, much different from any previous light I’d known, more revealing. Light broken into particles, granules of light refracting and dissolving into nothing, then compounding into a prismatic synthesis. Even now the words are inadequate to describe the experience. It was an event or variation in the world that I couldn’t compare to the old world, for that was gone forever. It was as if someone had removed the eyes from my head and calibrated them, polished them, or as if a shadow that I hadn’t seen cloaked about the world had lifted.

Unfortunately the clarity proved brief. Several days passed before I regained strength enough to work. Tirelessly I designed and built, built and designed, but just months after the first stroke I suffered another, and a slow recovery yielded to memory loss, minimal at first but then intensified and irreversible, as if the cloak over the world had reappeared but only in my mind. I returned to work as before but something was different—I was changed. I couldn’t remember details. I developed tremors in my sketching hand and often hurled drafting instruments in anger and frustration. Never before had I felt incapable of building as I wanted, as a project demanded. My focus and energy waned. I was plagued with headaches.

The untethered mind wanders freely about the caverns of memory, but many of my memories had fled me, or I’d fled them, alone to meander the empty caves at whim. Naturally my output suffered and rather than continue to build badly or beneath my potential or wait for my colleagues to suggest it, I took a voluntary break from work and fled to the mountains, driving without respite until I ran out of fuel. The days were dreams and the nights were inscrutable. I drove through endless winding roads of shadow until dawn, intoxicated and cleansed. I slept a few hours in the car and drove again, taking the mountain curves as fast as I could. For two days and two nights I traveled those lonely ghost roads somewhere between here and there, a world of fleeting memories opened wide in irony on one side of me, the cold demanding earth at the other. I belonged in neither, searching for my new place, careening narrow precipices of unwinding fate.

Deconstructionist pt. I


I was always certain that one day I would become a great builder. I never questioned or discarded the idea as unreasonable or romantic, but rather thought of it as the natural progression of my experience. I began constructing objects out of clay and mud at such an early age that I didn’t recognize the shapes wrought of my hands as anything but extensions of my physical self, as ordinary as other children kicking a ball. My grade school art teachers began to take note of this advanced understanding of architecture, and my parents attended closed-door meetings with school administrators to discuss my potential.

By the time I finished the fourth grade I had fashioned a replica of the city’s most infamous bridge on sight and memory, adding curative modifications to mend impractical flaws in the original composition. My model was constructed of clay and sticks and stood four feet tall. Word of the feat soon reached the bridge’s original architect and found him forced to defend his aesthetic approach. It was with that particular project that I gained my first enemy. By the end of that year I began sketching plans, also with ability beyond my years, and received my first commission — a horse stable and adjoining three-story shed for grain storage.

My parents thrust me into accelerated courses in order to maximize my creative potential. I graduated high school at fourteen and enrolled in the local university’s architecture program. Forced to decline commissions throughout my adolescence due to academic policy, I made promises to those daring enough to employ the skills of a boy, a child whose work was unproven but notable for its rigid and cost-efficient use of material and time. News outlets and marginal media representatives began to call. I was young but already the focus of nationally syndicated news interviews. My parents became de facto representatives, and ultimately exploited my talents and alchemized them to their own schemes.

I honored my promises and flourished professionally but was reputedly difficult to work with. I became solitary, abrasive, evasive, and though the work was always world-class and completed on deadline, I retreated into myself, building secrets and cities of my own. By the time I reached my late-twenties, I’d alienated myself from my parents and the world, only speaking through an agent, myself now a recluse, frightened of the world and angry at it. I was alive in my work and nowhere else.

A group of financiers commissioned me to build the renowned Trankworth Center, a sprawling subset of office buildings and condominiums spread beneath their centerpiece, a twenty-eight-story tower made of glass and steel in downtown Los Angeles. The project took three years and over two thousand men to complete. It was considered a masterpiece at the unveiling, a ceremony I did not attend. Magazines, books, television shows, my contemporaries and critics all lauded the Trankworth as an achievement in North American architecture. My name soared to inconceivable heights; I was undoubtedly respected in my field. Heralded as the new face of American architecture, I received commissions from each continent.

After the Trankworth, I turned them all down.

Suddenly and inexplicably I no longer found value or identity in building. For the first time in my life, I stopped working. It was as if the Trankworth had drained my resources, wrung them out, pulverized them. I retreated further into seclusion, searching in vain for symbols of life where it actually existed, not where I fashioned it. I wanted to feel alive but I also knew life would be something of a revelation to me, something not previously experienced. My parents died in an auto accident, and though I maligned them for taking advantage of my younger self, I couldn’t help but feel pain and loneliness when they passed away.

While meditating on a small tussock on the afternoon of my thirty-second birthday I had a revelation whereupon my ideas abandoned me, I fell weightless in the void. Soundless light rather than darkness. My ideas returned to me broken into elements, the elements into molecules, into smaller fragments yet. I entered back into waking consciousness compounded, condensed, my body shrinking incrementally, collapsing upon itself, as though in a centrifuge.

I emerged from the experience more aware than ever. Climbing from the depths of self into which I’d retreated, the world had either grown embittered at my estrangement or forgotten about me entirely. I was offered not a single commission. Again I disappeared into worker’s solitude, armed with sketches and plans and perhaps salvation.