A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post entitled The Mystery Of Creativity. In that post I shared J.J. Abrams' belief that mystery is a catalyst for imagination. Curiosity, potential, possibility, and hope can all spring from it. I included a youtube clip from the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit that was held in San Francisco this past October. In it, producer Brian Grazer leads a conversation between himself, J.J. Abrams, and Apple's Chief Designer Officer, Jony Ive on the topic of creativity.
A few weeks after I had made that post, Brian Grazer was a guest on Marc Maron's podcast. The main topic of discussion centered on Grazer's use of curiosity as a catalyst for imagination. Or as Brian puts it, "Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity." As it turns out, Brian has been conducting what he calls "curiosity conversations" with distinguished individuals roughly every two weeks for over thirty years.
He began in his twenties, when he was employed as a law clerk at Paramount Studios. At that time, he was asking prominent members in the entertainment industry for five minutes of their time. Warren Beatty was one of his early successes. He was less successful with studio head, Lew Wasserman. But he kept at it. At some point in the early to mid-1980's, he decided to look outside of Hollywood and approach individuals who weren't necessarily connected to the entertainment industry. Over the course of the ensuing three decades (and counting), his curiosity has led him to people as varied as Jonas Salk, Princess Diana, Condaleeza Rice, and many, many more.
This past year, Grazer (with journalist Charles Fishman) released a book entitled, A Curious Mind - The Secret To A Bigger Life. The book isn't a chronological account of his curiosity conversations, although it does reference a number of them. Instead it is more of an account about how curiosity has helped him both in his career and in his life. Curiosity has enabled him to realize and understand possibilities. It has also made him acutely aware of connections. For example, a conversation with Sting in early 1980's resulted in an invitation to a party. At that party, Sting introduced Brian to a woman named Veronica de Negri, who, years prior, had been systematically tortured by the Pinochet regime. A curiosity conversation with her ensued and a decade later, her story of survival helped him to understand the underlying concept of APOLLO 13 (which he produced). As Brian describes it, the dots usually connect. It may not be immediate or obvious, but connections can almost always be made.
As Brian illustrates in his book, curiosity creates interest. It can also create excitement. Conversely, familiarity is the enemy of curiosity. He also talks at length about using curiosity in the following ways:
- As a tool for discovery, as a kind of secret weapon to understand what other people don’t.
- As a spark for creativity and inspiration.
- As a way of motivating yourself.
- As a tool for independence and self-confidence.
- As the key to storytelling.
- As a form of courage.
- and, most of all, the human connection that is created by curiosity.
You may be asking yourself how any of this relates to architecture. I can tell you it relates directly. Architecture is a creative field as well as a problem-solving one. Asking questions is usually the first step in the process of any design. And the questions continue to multiply as the design develops once the process is initiated.
Those are some common starting points. How can these two materials work together? Why don't we use stone instead of brick in this instance? Where can I orient this house on the site to best take advantage of the view? Those are all good questions. But my own personal favorite begins simply.
That single short phrase perfectly embodies the aspects of curiosity, potential, possibility, and hope. And it often yields the best answers.