Note To Self: The Magic Of It

A quick note to self:

I just came across this quote from Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, in which he illuminates the difference between writing and storytelling:

Literature was born not the day when a boy crying wolf, wolf came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels: literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him. That the poor little fellow because he lied too often was finally eaten up by a real beast is quite incidental. But here is what is important. Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”

I leave it to a master of word smiths to make this magic palpable in writing. That magic that turns words into art; it’s the same magic that turns a building into architecture. It’s not the materials or the structure, the openings, sightlines, code requirements met. It’s not the drawings of an idea or the construction documents. It’s not the column, the plane, the cell. The details. The real estate markers. It’s not the meeting of functions. Nor the clarification of form.

No. While all that and the rest is needed. While all that is the vehicle. No. That “go-between, that prism, is the art” of architecture. The tension between the expectations and the surprise. The tugging on a memory. The storytelling. The goosebumps on your arms when you engage. When you lose yourself in a spellbinding world and not notice the physical manifestations anymore. Where that world gets born because of the physical to transcend it.

Nabokov can take you there within one sentence. I’ll need to take you by your hand and travel. You have to enter these spaces and be mesmerized. The magic of architecture is born out of its subtleties. It cannot be put into words or shown in images.

But I’ll try it anyways with the Umbrellas of the Ágitagueda Art Festival in Portugal.


Yes. Can you imagine all the steel wires? All properly engineered and anchored. The public safety concerns mitigated. The colors chosen. The perfect material picked (think of the sun, the rain, the dirt). The Umbrellas made. And all the rest that went into the making. But the magic lies not in any of its parts. None of them are art. The art lies in the go-between. In that prism through which you experience.


(I found these images at the designer’s website Impact Plan, PPS.ORG, and Bored Panda).

This just might give you goosebumps, even without being there. Right? And yes. It provides shade. And yes it provides public spaces. And yes it draws functions into the street. And yes the lighting is playful. But the quality of the space, the art, the magic happens when you don’t look. When you don’t do.

(As a disclaimer : I am not a licensed architect in the State of North Carolina, nor do I practice architecture or offer to practice it. I am a licensed builder and design and build modern homes. I employ the professional help of a licensed structural engineer on all my projects. The above is simply my personal reflection on art, architecture, and space)