Editor's Letter: Art of the Possible

Our editor contemplates the essentials.

Editor's Letter: Art of the Possible

Our editor contemplates the essentials.

If you’ve ever been through a renovation or a new-build, this scenario might be familiar. You engage an architect, you work up a brief together, and then they start to plan. All goes well, you get excited by their proposals and if you’re anything like me, you start to imagine the space in the half-light between sleeping and waking, or as you drift off at night. It’s a visceral, immediate feeling that this will transform the space you live in. (I can confirm my wife thinks me obsessive.)

Then you get it costed and there’s a kind of deflating moment where you realise you can’t really afford it, or it’s more than you thought it could be and more than the architect thought it might be. And then the value management steps in and you start to worry that the very reason you engaged with the whole process might be slipping away – that the delight might disappear and leave you with rooms that have no magic. 

This has happened to us before. You get over it eventually, but it’s kind of inevitable. The plans have been coming together beautifully on our rumpty old villa for a year or so, but the stories are true: the cost of building does surprise even the professionals right now.

We realised over the weekend that at this point you need a really good dose of optimism and you do that by pulling back and finding perspective: you focus on the big picture, the thing you’re trying to solve. Architects are very good at this – they have the ability to distil something down to one or two really important elements. 

I think it’s one reason so many of my favourite buildings – or really, my favourite things in life, be they luxurious or humble – are so very simple. They have clarity and meaning in the way that a pasta sauce made with exactly one vegetable gives me a particular sense of satisfaction.

As we came to make this issue, it felt timely to start thinking about money and the cost of building, but that quickly started to feel a bit sad, really. Somewhere along the way, I realised we were focussing on the problems rather than the solutions. 

So the houses in the issue are optimistic, in the sense that they take on things that might seem overwhelmingly difficult to some and make a virtue of them – whether that’s a house on the dunes at Eastbourne, a collective building project in Grey Lynn or even the renovation of a state house over 20 years and two stages.

They’re a reminder of the possible, in other words. And that’s kind of an art.


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