Books by Ben Jacks
A House and its Atmosphere is a meditative essay about the experience of designing and building a house of one’s own. Told in seventy black and white photographs and a series of narrative excursions, architect Ben Jacks reflects on a lifetime of influences as he reveals the personal nature of inhabiting a place at the edge of a tidal cove on an island in Maine. A House and its Atmosphere quietly advocates for the simple logic and modest ease of direct experience and an observational perspective in architecture.
In chapters about imagining, walking, and designing Ben Jacks reflects on the essence of architectural experience, describing what it is like to begin to make momentous decisions, arguing that aesthetic experience is the result of how one has learned to see. Memory, family, nature, relationships, and work inform design at every step.
A House and its Atmosphere is a grounded story about designing and building a small work of architecture. With students of architecture and amateur builders in mind, Ben Jacks makes a case for design informed by theories of place-identification, detail, and craft. The book is a primary source and a chronicle of experience of radical empiricism. As such it offers a kind of conceptual tool kit for those interested in thinking about the processes of architecture, designing, and placemaking.
A House and its Atmosphere is a fresh and valuable contribution to the shelter memoir genre, from a professional architect’s perspective.
From the preface of the book The Architect’s Tour
If you want to be a good designer, set aside the glossy magazines, turn off your computer, and seek out first-hand encounters with good design. When it comes to cities, buildings, and art, actual experience is almost always better than the virtual kind. No image can replicate Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp when the light is just right, or capture the silent speech one hears on a stroll through Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta, or explain hours dissolving in Peter Zumthor’s baths at Vals. That is the reason for this book: to encourage you to actively pursue direct aesthetic experience in the built environment, and to reflect upon the best reasons and ways to be a dedicated design traveler.
Traveling to learn is an integral part of the education of student architects and designers. It is vital for designers to know how to be effective design travelers, to know how to seek out and encounter places, buildings, and objects, and to develop a capacity for looking, drawing, and, above all, discerning. But to be a student is only to be “one who is studying,” which means all of us who, if we are truly alive, delight in the application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge.