relativism in design


i was once accused of being a relativist--

relativism [ˈrɛlətɪˌvɪzəm]


and let's just say that the person accusing me of relativism was not seeing it as a good quality.  he, like many people, believes that there ARE absolutes-- moral and aesthetic values that are Right or Wrong-- with no gray area.  meanwhile i see all kinds of variation on right and wrong, and all kinds of perfectly acceptable gray area.

in any case, clearly my friend was right-- most of the time i AM a relativist.  i have spent too many years studying people and our varying cultures to see things in absolute terms.

when it comes to design-- architecture, decorating, landscaping-- i am also a relativist.  i don't see that there is an absolute Right or Wrong in any given situation.  there are, to me, a fairly infinite number of ways a room can be arranged, or a building can be designed. there are also a fairly infinite number of styles and periods of architecture and design that i find beautiful.  i can be as attracted to a 'sixties brutalist' fireplace as to an elaborately detailed 'victorian' one.  it is all in the experience of the space, colors, and-- the moment.

and (in typical relativist fashion) when it comes to people's needs for design-- the question that i come back to is whether a room [or a building, or a garden] FEELS good to be in.  different people are going to experience each space differently.  some people are not going to feel good in my stark white rooms, while others are ONLY going to feel good in stark white rooms.  some will feel good in a wide open outdoor space, others only in clearly defined outdoor 'rooms'.

to define design and architecture, therefore, in absolutes-- to place rules of decorating on people's homes-- makes no sense to me.

live with what you love.

-mary-moore.  

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