Bateson Building Dedication, Sacramento, CA, 1979
If we got our energy design act together throughout this country, there would be no need for colossal war budgets to make sure that oil keeps flowing from the rest of a world that is beginning to ask why their resources should pay for the dumb corners we’ve designed ourselves into. The press likes to call this building “Solar,” that makes for a short, snappy headline. I call it a “climate responsive” building because it recognizes and integrates a variety of characteristics of the local climate into its design. The biggest single user of energy in modern office buildings is lighting. One of the purposes of the atrium we’re meeting in today is to bounce daylight into the offices that surround it. The atrium space is actually part of the heating and cooling system for the building. It brings sunlight in to warm the building in the winter and draws heat out of the space in the cool of the summer night. The concrete mass of the building acts like a battery-storing heat on cold days, and storing cool night air on warm days. I want to add some thoughts about Gregory Bateson in whose memory this building is dedicated. Gregory was a mentor to myself and to Governor Jerry Brown. Most of Gregory’s life was spent trying to illuminate the wholeness that is in man and the natural world. We are all part of what Gregory called, “the pattern which connects,” which is the form of life itself. Gregory’s search led in many directions: the function of language and thought, the nature of human cultures, biology and the connections among living things. Because he cut through the familiar habits of mind that cloud our everyday vision, he was not always easy
to understand. To hear what he was saying-and he often talked not science but stories-meant replacing a lot of what you thought you knew. In the last month of his life, I asked him what single thing was needed for people to grasp a new way of looking at their world. He said, “People are mad for quantity, yet what is significant is quality and difference.” And so it is in this building named in honor of Gregory Bateson. We found that in designing around natural energy flows, we became sensitive to difference. The measure became not foot-candles of quantifiable illumination, but the quality of light you actually experience. We found we could consider the wall of the building not as a static two-dimensional architectural element, but as a living skin that is sensitive to and adapts to differences in temperature and light. We found out that designing a building that saves energy, means designing a building that is sensitive to differences and results in a building that people felt more comfortable in. We humans are not designed to live and work at temperatures and lighting that are uniform and constant. We feel most alive when we experience subtle cycles of difference in our surroundings. This building named in his honor itself becomes, “the pattern which connects” us to the change and flow of climate, season, sun and shadow, constantly tuning our awareness of the natural cycles that support all life. Perhaps this is what esthetics and beauty are all about. Perhaps what we find beautiful is that which connects us to an experience of difference-to an experience of the patterns of wholeness which distinguish the living world for the works of Man.