HomeArt Design Construction


Art Martial

Notes on the Active Imagination


Synthesis of Form at Mission College

The Quality without a Name

A Ken Talk

Some years ago, on vacation in Japan, Fu Ren and I visited the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.

As the crowd gathered to look across the water, I veered off to the left and discovered a chained-off path. I could have easily gone around the chain, but I respected the barrier. But something about that path caught my attention. Some would call the path perfect, from the compacted earth and the cut of the stone on the lane to the suggestion of entry. But that day, I encountered a quality of space I could not name.

The same thing happened at Mission. As a young architecture student, I dreamt grandiose dreams of designing community spaces that could reinvigorate the black community –– spaces that would have a distinctive shape and form using conic sections. I even made up my own oath as an architect to do so.

But never in my wildest imagination did I dream of designing such spaces for the common good, for the public trust. Such a thought was beyond my imagination as a young black man in a white world. In fact, I almost abandoned my position at Mission due to a failure to communicate with one of the administrators; but as Littlewood’s Law would have it –– miracles happen more often than we can imagine –– and, a miracle did indeed occur and I decided to stay.

The projects at MC have fulfilled an unconscious wish, one I never thought I possible; and the design accomplishments at the college are a credit to the Mission community, District Facilities design and construction staff, maintenance and operations personnel, as well as, the architectural firms –– Lionakis, WRNS and LPA –– who brought the public will to reality. The title of this segment, one I always liked, is taken from the work of Christopher Alexander. He and Sara Ishikawa, professors at University of California at Berkeley while I attended the College of Environmental Design, co-authored A Pattern Language.

I dedicate these pages to all of these actors.  

Would you like to know more?....