In literature, there are three main themes that help to categorize a narrative beyond its essential plot: man against man, man against nature and man against himself. Having one of these themes firmly categorized forms the structure of the story and aids in making the plot more cohesive and focused.
In an award winning movie like Schindler’s List, the strength of that story engages the audience by revealing the lives and situations of the characters. In a great piece of music, say Keith Jarrett’s “Part IIC” from The Koln Concert (amazing by the way), unveils a complex and beautiful narrative geniusly making the intangible tangible.
In the case of architecture and interior design, creating a strong narrative is, I believe, one of the most exciting parts of the early design process – for you are giving “birth” to an idea. It is the quiet, but consistent element used to metaphorically unify all the pieces of a design into a cohesive whole. Sometimes the narrative is born out of the functional and aesthetic aspirations of the owner. Sometimes it is the talented designer who first provides the spark of inspiration. Whatever the initial catalyst, for most constructed works, the program is the structure from which the narrative is derived and expanded upon. Once the narrative has its own rules set, the “story” the building tells is revealed in its program through the specific choice of materials, sequence of spaces, horizontal and vertical circulation, and articulation of details. Noteworthy buildings with strong narratives have the ability to appeal to the senses, stir the emotions and touch something in us that is otherwise intangible.
A strong, clear vision: Maya Lin – Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial
Allowing materials to tell their own story: Louis I Kahn – Kimbell Art Museum
Creating a narrative of celebration and struggle: David Adjaye (w/ Freelon Group, David Brody Bond and SmithGroup) – National Museum of African American History & Culture, set to open 2015.
join the discussion – what ‘constructed narratives’ have been important to you?