The Luxury of Beauty

I’ve been carrying around this idea with me for weeks – it’s written on my to-do list in my phone, sandwiched between people I need to contact and why, just sitting there silently, like a reminder of some momentary epiphany while walking through this beautiful and yet bedraggled place – the luxury of beauty – and it is an interesting question, a curious statement, provocative perhaps – is beauty a luxury, is it the thing that comes after all other basic needs are met? And is, therefore, beauty only for those who have all other of their needs met? Or is there some other way, some way to make beauty some intrinsic thing, woven into the function of a building, into the planning of a place, into the character of a community? Make it in the doing, and not the end product. Make it in the idea, and not in the so many surfaces and faces of a thing. Is there a way to make beauty not out of lavishness or excess or some arcane iconography or imagery that we no longer connect with, Ionic columns or Palladian windows or half-timbering or hammer beams – all things that were, at one time, the definition of beauty for what they represented as the true and honest way of building. Beauty is to be inspiring, though not always necessarily in a positive way, but always compelling, making you feel… something, making you think… something. Aspiring to give you pause to reflect on something, on your own condition, on how you feel about something or where you stand in this world, or maybe even making you see something differently, causing a shift in perception. And so, by extension, this kind of beauty – of idea, of fundament and essence – is not so easily achieved with granite countertops or chrome fixtures or hardwood trim or crown molding or any other surface treatments that can be changed out on a sliding scale depending on your budget. It is that essence of a thing that is laid bare for all the world to see, should they look. So give them a reason to look, and see… something.

[KMN]