Where a Way: Seeing & Believing

Questions, Plans & Images for a House on the Edge of a Woods
Susan Berger-Jones
Exterior Collapsed View
Exterior Memory View
Interior Sun Dial at Roof
Interior Sun Dial Over Exterior
West Slotted Window
Site Plan with Poetry Contours
Plan as Knot


Where a Way: Seeing & Believing Questions, Plans & Images for a House on the Edge of a Woods


The following are a list of questions which I have been asking myself for a few years. I started listing these questions after wondering if it was possible to design a house that could not be photographed (without burying it or covering it with trees.)


My first question was: What does this mean and is it possible? The second question came from friends and family: what kinds of things do you design? At the time it was hard for me to admit that I wanted to design a house which disappears. For all practical purposes houses do disappear: they rot away over decades and centuries. But I meant something else.


What I have begun to define for myself, in order to ask and answer questions, is that a house is made of memories as well as walls; and that its forms are created by design and by states of mind. Despite the fact that homes are built by inches and feet, there is no correct external standard of measure for a building. Measure is more like a ratio of internal ‘rightness.’ It is a fluid sensibility that takes in both the observer and the observed. It is in this way that a house disappears (and becomes you and me.) We are perceptive beings. Instead of my eye seeing what an architect has designed, I (or you) design a house by how we absorb it, or ‘see’ it. And so much goes into ‘seeing’! (memory, association, color blindness, mood, temperature, heart‐beat etc.) Seeing is complex, particularly when we consider that space is a passage and not a picture and that text was once related to space (and passage): as in a ‘passage of text.’ Today most words are used as flat bits of information. Words rarely lead us to a home. Why? The questions begin . . . ones that draw me as I am drawn; which draw you drawing me. Beautifully asked and unsolved.


There wasn’t any moon and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight. ‐‐Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon


Cezanne working at his vision of Mont Sainte‐Victoire and Dali at his paranoiac vision of the Catalonian landscape not only draw but are drawn by what they draw. From body and from world toward an other body and other world, man derives meaning in a third element, the created . . . And in this new medium, in a new light, “man” and “environment” both are made up. ‐‐Robert Duncan, The H.D. Book


Why do I never see a ceiling in my dreams of rooms? Do we ever ‘see’ all the walls inside a room?


How can I use all senses to design & know a whole room? Is this possible: when a house begins as fragments on paper: plan, elevation, section? What is the difference between the paper and the page?


Is the house made from sentences? Is house a noun?


Is space as flat as the word housing? Can I move through that?


As I pass through, is the house a passage, a text? Is the room a space where the page bears witness?


Where is memory?


What memories do I have of houses? How does memory make or re‐make form?


Do I want a house to resist being political? religious? & resist assimilation? Is my house ‘in exile’?


What did Robert Kelly mean when he said: “Landscape is something we create by our perception of it?”


How can the house ride on language and site lines without drowning in the abstractions of style?


How has a house a body? What kind of body am I in a house? am I a knot?


Why am I so fascinated by knots, cups & swastikas? (The knot is the first room – and belly button. Forget about swastikas for now. Read about the Dogon.) Is the house a knot?


Where is the house? Which Indians named the forest there? How do I scale the story?


How is the home a place I share with friends and strangers? Will they measure my house?


What is measure? Who will measure? Who is there?


Will a house hide in my eyes? Where is the house’s one‐word cloud, its paper moon? If the knot is space . . . turning into cups . . . on a line indoors and outdoors . . . and each house has a bellybutton attached to my dream ceiling . . . then where is the muscle?


What did I mean when I wrote: “‐‐this house is L’s heart‐muscle ‐– a passage through chambers.” Are the chambers exclusive? Can someone sell them?


Where are you? Will the house address you? Where is the world speaking? Do I need a house to know?

Susan Berger-Jones
Susan Berger-Jones

Susan Berger-Jones has had a hand in building homes, museums, sheds, pools, auditoriums, bathrooms, bird houses, sand castles and skyscrapers.  She is an architect and a poet.  “Where a Way” is the first of a series to map passages between building forms and our beliefs about form.  Her poems have appeared in two Off the Park Press anthologies on ekphrastic poetry.  A chapbook collaboration with Judson Evans was recently picked as a finalist in The Center for Book Arts Competition, 2012.