As homes go into foreclosure and offices acquire a ghost town emptiness, it’s hard not to feel skeptical when San Francisco architect Kurt Lavenson praises the effect of the recession. “For my part,” he claims in ARCADE (Spring 2011), “I am learning to embrace the slowdown for its cathartic qualities. The stillness has within it another kind of wealth—one of reflection, grounding and opportunity. I have come to appreciate the fallow period.”
It’s a provocative statement issued to a world of underwater homeowners and laid-off workers. But Lavenson doesn’t write from a position of economic immunity. His own architecture firm has experienced the profound slowdown that has plagued so many businesses. A once-constant list of ready clients, built over decades, has been lost to gaping periods of time without work.
Still, zenlike, Lavenson values this fiscally sparse time the same way a farmer values a crop field lying idle for a season, regenerating its soil for the next round of planting. It was a midlife economic low, he tells us, that propelled 49-year-old Frank Gehry from a conventional architect to a worldwide icon. “Taking time to pause, to lay fallow, allows us to connect with that wisdom and reach a fundamentally new kind of productivity,” Lavenson contends.
If you feel doomed by the economy that has put your job, your home, and (seemingly) your lifelong success in jeopardy, you need to read Lavenson’s inspired article celebrating the downturn. Despite initially raising my eyebrows, Lavenson ultimately convinces me—reminds me, really—that in loss there is beautiful opportunity, in crisis there is beautiful reward.