A preface by Lake | Flato with an accompanying quote by William Turnbull seems unnecessary, as the book’s introduction by Guy Martin thoroughly introduces the firm’s history and work in a conversational tone that better appeals to a reader with an affinity for conversation, good drink, and the effects of a well-designed home knitted into the landscape. However clunky it begins, the book’s subsequent pages open up a broad and refined catalog of projects that vary tremendously, while still maintaining a razor sharp approach that is characteristically Lake | Flato.
In its 30-year history, the firm has exemplified an attitude to architecture that may well live on more natively and completely in our ever complex and stimulated world than many may expect. Seeing the environment and its resources as prized pocessions which must be valued, used but respected as ever depleting, the ethos of Lake | Flato is keenly placed in its time, in a post-post-post industrial world—or maybe a “premodernist” world, as O’Neil Ford would have it.
What is most touching in this thick, yet small and intimate book, is that the role of material is so ever-present and deliberate that it jumps out of reach. What a strange thing that is, since we reside in a world ever more plastic and malleable, defined by digital technologies and ideas, verging on the immaterial to the point that farce plays like drama in pulse-taking pop-culture movies like Her. In short, the work is beyond its representation in both word and especially image, wonderfully lush as the pictures are, taken with the greatest care. The reader is certain to begin looking beyond the pages, eyes heading off the image’s border, further into the skies, waters, trees, and through the words on the page to desire the experiences the houses enable.
At the intersection of the environment and material, where Lake | Flato stands deftly, is an elemental aesthetic taking landscape and weaving it with an incredibly simple palette of wood, masonry, steel, and glass. Flipping through the book’s pages it is clear the 30 years of developing, exploring, and producing has yielded a rich body of work that can be easily identified and appreciated. But I am left wanting not only more of the experience, but also more variation. If imagining my experience, the houses do whisper with the wind, but what is also wanted and is needed is the dressing up.
Fashion is sometimes maligned in architecture, however it is what defines a culture, its tastes and soul, like a Mexican rebozo or Comanche headdress. And it is present in Lake | Flato’s work. We get glimpses of it, showing a level of sophistication that results only by mastering technique and developing a specific vocabulary.