Academics of Californian post-war architecture, who place in our reference map names such as Ray & Charles Eames, Craig Elwood, Pierre Koenig or Raphael Soriano, rarely overlook their strong influence from architect Gordon Drake, who died at the age of 35 while skiing in Tahoe lake, leaving a minimum built work, prominently his own house built by himself and some former navy mates in Beverly Glen.
An early disappearance that left a handful of promising housing projects unfinished, and that kept an innovative and practical idea of professional study (consisting of a mixed cooperation system involving an architecture office, a doctorate school and a research centre in the same area) from being put into practice. The study would be open for collaborations of different disciplines in different degrees of professionalism, orientated to the community service. As the own Drake said once: “Research is the only way to reach an honest design. Building. Assessing. Giving to the community ideas and developments the way they wish. Creating that desire”.
On 15 February 1955, a falling in the snowed mountains near the Lake Tahoe turned out to be fatal. Neil Jackson tells that they found a piece of paper in one of his pockets with two verses sketched in pencil: “Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main / Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind”. It was part of one of the “Meditations” of the English poet John Donne (1572-1631), the outstanding 17th Meditation, which features the well-quoted verse “No man is an island”.
Was Drake carrying consciously the idea of making an architecture based on cooperation and on the interrelation of the non-like, who needs each other, or a way to research fundamentally based on the synergies of multiple pitching?
Since we are working in the building of the prototype Patio 2.12 to Solar Decathlon Europe, I think of Gordon Drake, in his unfinished work and of John Donne while I behold the progressions of the multidisciplinary and diverse Andalucía Team.
1] “Californian Promise”, The Architectural Review, Marzo 1996, pp. 80-84