I just watched a fascinating documentary about 85-year-old Jiro Ono, a sushi chef in Tokyo, called “Jiro dreams of Sushi”. It is about an obsessed sushi bar owner whose whole life is his work. He considers each aspect of the sushi, from the provenance and handling of the ingredients through the timing and order of presentation. The film is not only a tribute to a master of his craft, but a meditation on dedication to your work and an unflagging desire to always be better.
I think there are good parallels to our practice of architecture, and our every day work here in the office. One of the most interesting things to me was how Jiro was supported by a cadre of superb craftsman and suppliers that enable him to provide such high quality to his clients. In the same way, we depend upon a group of craftsman and suppliers in our work: masons, tile setters, wood workers, general contractors, etc.
Here’s an example: his name is Jonathan Purvis, and he owns Northwest Select which harvests and mills “dead and down” cedar. It is a sustainable, eco-forestry operation. John is quite a character and he really knows his wood. The cedar is primarily from the Idaho mountains and has the most beautiful grain structure. The grain is very fine “pencil grain” which is a very different character than the typical 2nd or 3rd growth cedar. There are also beautiful variations in the color of the boards – as the cedar dies and starts to dry out the sap is pushed out from the center. You can see this as a dark wave in the wood on some of the boards. Currently we are working on a home where Jonathan is providing 18” wide planks that are 14 feet long. This is very hard to find in conventional lumber because the trees are much smaller. The last batch of lumber he brought in was estimated to be 1,000 years old by counting the rings. There is deep satisfaction in being to be able to obtain such beautiful wood sustainably.
In my view, every material has a particular feel and energy. Every surface, every space can be improved by the right material, chosen with care and built with craft. It is just this kind of beautiful material, and the care in its selection and use that contributes to the deep feeling of quality in our homes.