Have you ever struggled with why certain places feel “off” or uncomfortable? Have you ever had the sense that our homes, buildings and environment were making us sick? The quest to find the ‘why’ behind these intuitions may not have launched a thousand ships, but did drive the formation of Timeless Structures.
For us, this unease – the absence of delight – occurs in most places of the modern era. Our journey to find the source of this disease led to what seemed a thousand disparate paths – Permaculture, A Pattern Language and natural building of course, but also building science and classical architecture, even woodworking, regenerative farming practices and primitive skills/bushcraft. Along the way, we strove to uncover the structural form of beauty in esoteric methods such as graphical analysis, parametric modeling and reciprocal framing. Through this wandering, we discovered not separate paths but different manifestations of a common wholeness interwoven like the rays of an oak tree or the roots of an aspen grove. At its core, nature is not separate from beauty or structural form or health. It is we, moving farther from the truth (source), that encounter disease, discord and despondence. Timeless Structures was conceived as a means to reveal or manifest our interconnected nature.
If we take even a cursory look at the state of the building industry, it can be depressing. Buildings are a major contributor to carbon in the atmosphere and the climate change it is creating. We currently build with (and ingest) toxic products that are at the root of much ill health. Most current design disregards natural geometry and the context in which it is placed, leading to isolating and uninspiring works that contribute to the break-down of community and increased stress.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” The places we craft can be the solution, not just the problem. We must proceed along a different path, however, than is currently being traveled. This is why Timeless Structures exists, to provide integrated structural engineering that helps you move the needle toward a more regenerative, healthy, and beautiful built environment through a different level of thinking.
While we are focused on the structural form, we see naturally principled design as guided by a definable set of principles. These principles embody how we think differently, and represent the substance of the projects that are the focus of our firm.
It is said by the elders that you cannot separate the final product from the means used to create it. We would add to this that the nature of a construct, its beauty or truth, cannot be separated from its form (structure). If you think of buildings that produce the greatest sense of delight, they most often have an elegance of structure that is both comforting and uplifting. The sense of calm induced by exposed timber framing, the refuge created by an Arts and Crafts era built-in room divider, the prospect through arched windows. Structure, as with many aspects of integrated design, forms the basis for the patterns that make up the beauty of the whole. If we don’t integrate structure from the beginning of the design, the product will likely fall short of our expectations.
Comfort Is More Than Skin Deep
Physical and physiological comfort is a necessary component of the beautiful. There is a deep sense of well-being when seated by a sunny window on an otherwise cold day. This inner calm comes from more than just the heat of the sun. The window and wall must be correct. The interior surfaces must be pleasing to the touch. The view through the window needs to be directed toward a center of beauty. The tactile experience and physiological response are primary components of the health and beauty of the whole, much more so than the mere aesthetic appearance.
Nature Doesn’t Do Zero (Carbon Sequestration is Sexy)
Natural materials are meta-indicators of healthy design. Locally obtained, sustainably harvested or extracted, natural materials generally have the lowest carbon footprint (if not carbon sequestering), have the lowest toxicity, and are more likely to be physiologically stress-reducing. They are also more likely to be suited to the structural form most appropriate to the local environment. The world around us has had millennia to perfect these materials, and a beautiful whole is not possible without them.
We Cannot Thrive Without Our Mother (Nature)
The natural world is the only real model for our physiological and physical well-being. It is also the only real source of structural form that is at once beautiful, structurally elegant and sustainable. In terms of physical health, the calm that comes from looking at a savannah comes from many biophilic aspects. The most central of these are ordered complexity and levels of scale. Biophilic design is not merely slapping some wood cladding onto an otherwise non-adaptive design. Healthy, beautiful design integrates the patterns and levels of scales of nature into the whole from the beginning. The same is true of structural form. Structure that grants the truest agency to the natural materials and methods used more fully reflects the core of our being, producing the most beautiful and healthy whole.