I was once embarrassed about liking beautiful things. In the midst of my teenage existential angst, fretting over appearances struck me as horribly shallow. And I was canyon deep, dang it!
So that’s when I retreated to my Fortress of Solitude. It looked a lot like an alcove in the family basement. But it was mine.
My older sister and I shared a room until I turned 16 (which made her about two years past horrified) and decided I needed elbow room for me, and my big thoughts. I hung a beaded curtain as a doorway, bought a fake Persian rug from Pier One, and painted a vintage bed candy-apple red with yellow and blue flowers in what I hoped looked vaguely Indian because I was pretty sure all meaning-of-life questions were routinely answered in that Asian country.
Sitting in my beautiful space I filled sketchbooks with detailed drawings and profound-at-the-time thoughts about the meaninglessness of beautiful spaces.
I was still years away from appreciating irony.
But I believe that little room helped me find my way out of the “Alice In Kierkegaard-Land” loop-de-loop playing in my head. While struggling to define the meaning of life in minutia-choked arguments with myself, I had to make the bed. While pondering the existence or nonexistence of a God, I had to clear out the cobwebs. Without a sister to blame for dust on the shelves, or a light left on, or clothes tossed on the floor, I learned to take responsibility for my own happiness and find meaning in the mundane.
And I concluded that trying to make life beautiful is not a bad way to spend a life.
Maybe that’s why I’m so fascinated by Pietro Belluschi who did that so successfully. And did much of it right here in Oregon. You can see his houses, office buildings and churches around the state. In 1951 he designed a 900 square foot home for a couple in Lake Oswego. The home was slated for demolition in 2006 when Tim Mather, owner of MCM Construction, and community volunteer Tia Ross, formed Friends of Belluschi, and deconstructed the house and stored it. Fund-raising is underway to rebuild the house at Marylhurst University where it will serve as educational tool for students.
Until then it remains a “Belluschi in a Box.” Interested in freeing the genius?