fjmt is a multi-disciplinary design studio with a commitment to design excellence and the enhancement of the public domain.
fjmt seeks excellence in every aspect of the work and professional service we deliver and, most of all, in the built work itself.
Integral to this pursuit of design excellence is the acknowledgement of the limitations within which we work, be they cost, time or budget, but also the understanding that these are not limitations to achieving excellence, as architecture, interior architecture and design are ultimately directed to immeasurable outcomes.
Most fundamentally to the creation of works that are as beautiful as they are inspiring and that can represent the aspirations and values of our community.
An authentic contemporary connection to place is deeply problematic. The sense of interconnected inhabitation developed through centuries of close and intimate settlement in the land, myth and ancestry was lost with the embrace of modernity and all it offered. We are absorbed with all the great rewards that modernity brings to our lives but at the same time a sense of melancholic loss for what cannot be regained remains.
Modernity offers us the world, a breathtaking expanse of technological possibilities and freedom but leaves us with a sense of perpetual displacement. It seems only tenuous connections can be made within the speed, breadth and sweep of modernity. We are left with a sense of homelessness, a longing for an interconnection with and place in the world, our community; an inseparable cultural bond that grounds us.
The grounded pre-modern connection to a specific locale, place and culture interwoven in the specific is lost through displaced modern consciousness. This is the reality of a condition that cannot be adequately compensated for by nostalgia or the beguiling obsession with the new. But perhaps we can seek a more universal sense of interconnection, not the specific connections of a lost pre-modern culture but the more general and difficult connection of the universal; an authentic interconnection with the world which is individual, direct and not mediated by the conditioning of the specific.
With the development of a contemporary sense of universal connection with the world, it may be possible to begin authentic reconnection to the specific and to a locale. These connections will be subtle, as our modern condition is one of displacement and our interconnection is primarily universal, but this does not make it less profound, and perhaps ultimately makes it more so as it is free from the myth and distortion of socio-religious culture.
The universal is the basic shared phenomenological human condition of being together on this earth, under this sky, framed and orientated through landscape and architecture. Experience and interpretation of the reality of this basic condition can ground us within the flux and noise of a contemporary placelessness.
Perhaps an authentic architecture can begin through restating and interpreting this condition; making metaphorical connections to our phenomenological condition and framing our relation with the world; positioning us in relation to the earth, sky and landscape. Abstract relations that simultaneously project forward through form and technology to reframe our relation to the world, and at the same time, reach back to connect us to what is unchanging in our world.
Irrespective of the specifics of culture, history or site, is the basic existential condition of being in the world, on the earth and under the sky; between groundplane and skyplane.We carve and dig into the ground, piling up the earth and clay.
We reach up with posts and frames, stretch and weave glass and fabric in planes and vaults.
We shape and figure the space between the plane of the sky and the plane of the ground, distorting both in attempts to secure a place.
…The building brings the earth as inhabited landscape close to man and at
the same time places the nearness of neighbourly dwelling under the
expanse of the sky.
In Hebel: der Hausfreund (Pfullingen, 1957), 13
The formal development and explorative potential of contemporary construction materials and systems technology have played a central role in shaping the direction of architecture over the last century.
This innovation and transformative influence continues to this day.
The materials with which we build are central to our work and ongoing architectural investigations. Materials, after all, are fundamental to the very medium that is architecture and integral to the tectonic nature of authentic architectural representation. We are very interested in contemporary developments in materials, technology and exploration of the formal potential offered by these systems. In particular, technological advancement in the structural, thermal and dynamic visual performance of glass and composites creates new opportunities. A more transparent, responsive and kinetic architecture, calibrated to human preference and aspiration, is developing.
Equally, we are interested in the persistence of building materials and the associated depth of human relations with the material of the earth with which we have built for thousands of years. This is the phenomenological and poetic relation with materials; the tectonic assembly of constructs into meaningful alignments, the materials that figure and frame our relation with the world and our changing place within it.
There is a collective memory embodied within the stone, clay, wood and the material fabric of a place and its transformation through human settlement and struggle. These natural materials, lifted directly from the earth, are full of depth, texture and life.
They have borne witness to the prolonged human drama, and are the very tools by which we attempt to resolve our place in the world. We have grown close to them and the memory they embody of a lost interconnection with the world. This is the potential depth and significance that lies within the architectural use and expression of natural materials.
These are the dual material interests that are explored in our architecture: the formal, spatial and environmental potential of contemporary material technology, and the possibility of poetic depth in the expressive use of natural materials. Both interests are explored through a contemporary tectonic expression of materials and assembly, within a dialectical understanding of architecture, a dialectical exploration of alienation and place; transparency and solidity; lightness and weight; the visual and the tactile; the specifics of locale with the reality of the global.
The increasingly interconnected globalised nature of contemporary culture and industry is reflected in the procurement of building materials and systems manufacture from all across the world for even modest and simple projects. Accordingly, seeking a relation to locale primarily through local materials and industry, in a direct sense, is ever more limited and ultimately synthetic. More partial, abstract and dialectical relationships to a specific locale that acknowledge our globalised condition are the only authentic possibility.
Within the frenetic world of professional practice, and the instrumental development and construction industry where time is constantly denied, how does the architect launch the architectural project and through it, thoughtfully respond to contemporary theoretical issues? Ironically, it is perhaps through the avoidance of thought, through thoughtless action.
The drawing of the first line across the site intersects the site with the programme and at this moment simultaneously explores, discovers and uncovers the project that in some ways is already there.
Thought and theory are sometimes impediments to understanding, or at least understanding that comes directly through action. Certainly they are impediments to intuition, and intuition is perhaps the primary means through which the architect engages, via the architectural project, with the pressing cultural and theoretical issues of our time.
Intuition, in some respects, is the opposite of thought. It goes around the cognitive limitations of thought, and through intuition the limitations of time can be overcome as intuition is immediate requiring no time; time and thinking may in fact block this creative insight.
Intuition is an existential quality beyond the rational. It is rooted in our connection to the world we inhabit; it is our feeling rather than our knowledge. It is a manifestation of the interconnectedness of all things. Remarkably, it is the means for a holistic response to the vastly complex nature of our human condition. And it is a response less from us than through us.
But this first intuitive line drawn across the site, this formal concept, must be transformed, constructed and assembled from materials and systems to become architecture. And this will require direct engagement with the market and industry, with all its limitations, its possibilities and its technology.
Intuition must be reinforced with rigour, constancy, and discipline with a deep sense of collaboration. A collaboration that will find the concept evolved, transformed, protected and realised.
In architecture, representations of reality are postulated and explored through the formal relations of the building and the reality of its making. Not the surface application of an idealised image, but through the spatial organisation, formal order, structure, construction and specific relation with the site and interpretation of the programme. Thus, the representational nature or meaning in architecture does not depend on its stability, function or the efficiency of the means of its production, but on the way in which all of these have been limited and subordinated or transformed by purely formal requirements. Purpose is therefore not a restrictive condition that compromises our art, but an integral element of specific representation.
Architectural representation becomes the making of critical frames through which to understand our experience of the world, a formal means, of cognitive effect, with an ethical and social purpose.
But it is also important to understand the limits of this representation.
The architectural framings of the world are not, for example, political and never will be. This is beyond the limits of architecture. They only frame the events that occur around them and which are staged within them, accommodating comedy and tragedy with equal indifference.
However, this indifference may only be in relation to what is transient.
These architectural frames can embody something more essential behind appearances, something more fundamental and enduring. They can place or position us in relation to the world in which we live. This is, in a sense, the idea of the sublime that began in the eighteenth century—the absorbing and overwhelming power of the natural landscape.
When we look out over the ocean at the horizon, there is a calming, meditative effect. We are placed in relation to the world in a way that is immediately overwhelming, emphasising our insignificance in relation to the vastness of the ocean or the stars. But at the same time we are comforted, we are pleased to be such a small part, our egos recede and we feel momentarily connected.
Architecture can similarly adjust our experience of the world and our place within it. We are made aware of the conditions of our lives by constructing alternative frames within which things are set in a slightly different order. These are the critical frames through which we ultimately attempt to reconcile our place in the world.