April 3, 2017 / President's Letters

April 2017 President's Letter – April = Spring! Earth Day! AIA National Architecture Week!

thorncrown chapel

Thorncrown Chapel, E. Faye Jones. Image courtesy Thorncrown Chapel.

That is a lot of exclamation points, but I get pretty excited about nature and architecture, two of my favorite topics.
Spring is upon us and that gets us thinking anew and itching to be outside. Give me the choice between the indoors and outdoors and I’ll be out the door before you finish the sentence. The smell of the earth, the feel of the sun and breeze, and the briskness of a fall morning, are just a few things that get my blood going. What I enjoy most is fishing and hunting with my husband. It doesn’t take much for us to grab the canoe and go fishing, and when deer hunting season comes around, our weekends are spent sitting in a tree watching the woods come alive (and hoping the deer come by, of course). Other times I enjoy grabbing the camera and taking a hike in search of butterflies, birds, and critters.
What fascinates me most about nature is that it is simple and complex at the same time. I think of nature as going back to the basics and keeping it simple. Nothing added. But once you dig deeper you see the complexities of how things are interconnected. Nature is full of hidden geometries and mathematical equations like in leaf structures and nautilus shells.  It teaches us about proportion, scale and natural formation. Patterns and camouflage on animals, insects, amphibians and fish give us clues about how to incorporate architecture into nature and the context of the site. I think most of all, nature teaches me that there is a purpose for everything, and there should be a purpose for architecture.
A building that embodies the connection between nature and architecture for me is Thorncrown Chapel in Fayetteville, Arkansas by E. Faye Jones. This building was my favorite even before I got to visit it, but once I visited, it knocked it off the chart. The spirituality you feel just from being in a chapel is enhanced by the connection to nature. The lightness and simplicity of the structure takes the experience to another level. It truly was an experience that reinforced why I wanted to be an architect.
Nature and architecture go hand in hand. As architects, engineers and construction professionals, we are all part of preserving the Earth we have and being stewards for utilizing what the Earth provides in a way that is good for all. I put a plug in for Earth Day because it serves as a reminder that we need to step up and be advocates for the environment and do our part to create a built environment that supports and works with the natural environment, not go against it.
So, celebrate renewal and revitalization that spring brings us; celebrate Earth Day (April 22) by getting outside and giving back; and celebrate AIA National Architecture Week (April 9-15) by getting back to what it is about architecture you get excited about!
P.S. I would love to hear about your favorite architecture, so please share!
P.P.S. One more plug – for the COTE|Resiliency Committee’s Urban Farm Ride on April 29. Registration is open for this great opportunity to see how gardens can exist in urban areas and become a catalyst for community engagement.
sharon signature
Sharon Day, AIA
GWWO Inc./Architects