Beginnings Part 1 — Where Is the Front Door?

Gabriel García Márquez via

Gabriel García Márquez via


Artists, especially those working in various forms might consider the following observation from architect Witold Rybczynski:

The first question you ask yourself approaching a building is: Where is the front door?  According to Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language, always a useful guide, locating the entrance to a building is the single most important decision in the design process.  “The entrance must be placed in such a way that people who approach the building see the entrance or some hint of where the entrance is, as soon as they see the building itself,” he writes.  There are several issues here.  One is simply finding one’s way.  In a well-designed building you proceed to the entrance almost without thinking—you know which way to go, you should not have to look for signs or ask for directions.  Furthermore, a building with a clearly identifiable entrance feels welcoming, whereas a building—especially a public building—whose entrance is obscured feels both annoying and forbidding.

Witold Rybczynski, How Architecture Works, p. 84

Since reading it, I have observed this principle in action.  Indeed, when approaching an unfamiliar building, not only am I searching for the point of entrance, in effect, I am surveying the exterior for a sense of its internal logic.   How, if I were to enter, might I move through it?

Witold Rybczynski via

Witold Rybczynski via

Compare that observation about buildings to this one about writing from Gabriel García Márquez:

One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily. In the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your book. The theme is defined, the style, the tone. At least in my case, the first paragraph is a kind of sample of what the rest of the book is going to be. That’s why writing a book of short stories is much more difficult than writing a novel. Every time you write a short story, you have to begin all over again.

Gabriel García Márquez,  The Paris Review Interviews II

It seems to me that García Márquez and Rybczynski are describing the same issue.  As García Márquez suggests, how might a book’s entryway train the reader how to read what follows?

And how might a dance piece or musical composition or film do the same?

Thank you for reading.