Charlie Hailey / Porch Notes

Porch Notes

Charlie Hailey

Fevered respite: I have been think­ing a lot about porch­es late­ly. Too much per­haps, so that I am immersed in my own inquiry. So that I am less con­vinced of a nec­es­sary dis­tance. I imag­ine con­ver­sa­tions here on the porch where I often work and where I have invit­ed dia­logues with strangers, ghosts, col­leagues, and friends. Among this crowd of guests, I lis­ten to artists and sci­en­tists, writ­ers and pho­tog­ra­phers, pres­i­dents and nat­u­ral­ists. Here on a porch in Flori­da, their voic­es mix with the chirp of cicadas, wind in the cedars, and the river’s mur­mur as it runs back and forth with tides and rain. Wrapped in the same anx­ious calm and fevered respite where Goethe slept fit­ful­ly but pro­duc­tive­ly on his Garten­haus ter­race and where Calvin Stowe hal­lu­ci­nat­ed and recount­ed those heady dreams to Har­ri­et Beech­er (both dressed in wool, crino­line, and humid­i­ty), this crowd­ed porch respects nei­ther time nor loca­tion but does hew toward those who them­selves have lingered—whether as porch-sit­ters or porch-thinkers (or both)—on porch­es, bal­conies, ter­races, and oth­er plein air archi­tec­tures: James Agee, Athena, Wen­dell Berry, John Bur­roughs, John Cage, Rachel Car­son, bell hooks, Paul Cézanne, Zora Neale Hurston, Luce Iri­garay, Louis Kahn, Sig­urd Lew­er­entz, Mar­garet Mead, Gre­go­ry Bate­son, Claude Mon­et, John Muir, John Prine, Ted­dy Roo­sevelt, John Ruskin, Socrates, Paul Strand. 

Work­ing def­i­n­i­tion: Two oth­ers helped me define the porch, ear­ly in the research, now more than a decade ago. In their work with Axel Bruch­haüs­er, archi­tects Ali­son and Peter Smith­son defined porch as method.[1] For them, this pro­ce­dure was not mere­ly the­o­ret­i­cal; it was an active nego­ti­a­tion of site and con­text, of the charged void” between Axel’s hex­en­haus and the wood­ed slopes along the Weser Riv­er. In one my favorite pho­tographs of archi­tects at work, here is Ali­son Smith­son on her hands and knees mea­sur­ing, lay­ing out edges, and talk­ing with Axel. They crouch and bend and stretch on sheets of ply­wood, no more than fifty square meters, in a small, intro­spec­tive space with all the reach and pub­lic import of urban projects like Gold­en Lane. They are mock­ing up, in real time, a pri­vate porch space for a man and his cat. A porch is an inde­ter­mi­nate space that elides finite def­i­n­i­tions and nego­ti­ates fields of resis­tance as it also tunes per­son and place. 

An invi­ta­tion: On this teem­ing porch, two stood out more recent­ly. Jay Fel­lows taught me that a porch, like the framed thresh­old,” moves away from dialec­tics toward the dia­log­ic. Put anoth­er way, porch­es hold oppo­si­tions with­out dialec­ti­cal medi­a­tion.[2] Just as porch­es make room for con­ver­sa­tion on the cusp of nature and along the fron­tiers of built form, the dia­logues they house always have two sides. Think of the dou­ble-sid­ed­ness of a porch screen, where its veil­ing reflec­tion makes for a play between hid­ing and reveal­ing based on light. Porch­es are much more com­pli­cat­ed than a sim­ple blend of open and closed or of pub­lic and pri­vate. And John Dewey helped me under­stand how a porch embraces such para­dox. An advo­cate of the sta­ble and the pre­car­i­ous, Dewey couldn’t’ resist talk­ing about resis­tance and its active role in expe­ri­ence. Resis­tance binds togeth­er atti­tude and skilled method in his dis­cus­sion of inquiry, here in this oft-quot­ed apho­rism: The path of least resis­tance and least trou­ble is a men­tal rut already made. It requires trou­ble­some work to under­take the alter­na­tion of old beliefs.” Aes­thet­ic expe­ri­ence needs resis­tance, just like a porch needs sun, rain, wind, strangers, neigh­bors, and fiber­glass mesh. It is a place that hosts what Dewey called under­go­ing,” with its idea of receiv­ing, and doing, which offers a del­i­cate balance—a del­i­cate tun­ing, the Smith­sons would say.[3] In this sense, a porch is an invi­ta­tion to active, even rad­i­cal, reflection. 

Dia­logue of pair­ings: Anoth­er favorite pho­to­graph depicts the shirt­less philoso­pher serene­ly typ­ing at a tiny fold­ing table. His san­daled feet set firm­ly on the open porch’s floor­boards, Dewey leans over the Under­wood. Sun warms his back, and a small boat glides on Lake Sawler in the dis­tance. The chair’s birch logs are thick as arms. A book rests on the table’s cor­ner, pre­car­i­ous­ly, as if it might fall onto the dog at his feet. Here is Dewey, vul­ner­a­ble and intent, com­fort­able and aged, out­side in deep­en­ing thought, writ­ing. I have no such image of Fel­lows but what if the two had met on a porch? Maybe in Mia­mi or Key West, where Dewey win­tered? What sto­ries would be told? 

Lex­i­con / diary: I am con­vinced such dia­logues can inhab­it a lex­i­con, which has its roots in pub­lic speak­ing and dic­tion. As a nascent vocab­u­lary of the porch, these pair­ings hinge on sto­ries that oscil­late between the didac­tic and the diaris­tic. If the for­mer guides prac­tice with­in a dis­ci­pline, then the lat­ter reg­is­ters pri­vate rumi­na­tions some­times made pub­lic. Sim­i­lar­ly, a porch frames as it also folds space and time, it holds secrets and opens out onto streets, it doc­u­ments and day­dreams. These pair­ings offer pre­lim­i­nary notes for con­tem­po­rary prac­tices because porch­es are meant to be lived, exper­i­ment­ed with, repaired and con­stant­ly rede­fined.[4] So often we hear how won­der­ful porch­es are for their com­bi­na­tion of inside and out­side, which sug­gests an all too easy res­o­lu­tion of archi­tec­ture and nature and of the domes­tic inte­ri­or with what is out there,” in an activ­i­ty of build­ing that inher­ent­ly, and unavoid­ably, dis­rupts its con­text. Amid cli­mate crises, post-pan­dem­ic life, and social change, no such res­o­lu­tion exists, and the dif­fi­cult work of under­go­ing and doing must con­tin­ue and persist.

Already / not yet: Porch­es antic­i­pate the future as they also look back. In cas­es of the for­mer, a porch fore­shad­ows immi­nent change because of its uncon­di­tioned link to cli­mate.[5] Which is to say that a porch is baro­met­ric.[6] It is an ear­ly indication—an advance warning—of climate’s changes, both short- and long-term. 

Con­di­tioned / uncon­di­tioned: The uncon­di­tioned porch moves, while its house—conditioned by heat­ing and cool­ing, glaz­ing and walls—stays put. 

Here / there: The porch where I have been writ­ing for this past decade rides this change like an open-air ves­sel. Each year I notice the increased num­ber of man­groves grow­ing up around the lagoon out­side the porch. Each king tide ris­es that much clos­er to the porch’s tilt­ed floor. Each sea­son, anoth­er cedar, anoth­er palm, and anoth­er live oak dies from salt­wa­ter intru­sion. Their sil­ver trunks shim­mer in the heat. Cli­mat­i­cal­ly speak­ing, in terms of ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, the porch where I write has moved south­ward near­ly one hun­dred miles to Tam­pa, but the snook that seek warmer water already know that. I am still here, but cli­mat­i­cal­ly I am there. A witness.

Restora­tive / reflec­tive: Some look back with nos­tal­gia and the already becomes a no more to be lament­ed. Porch­es cut across the restora­tive” and the reflec­tive” that Svet­lana Boym found in nos­tal­gia. The for­mer stress­es nos­tos and attempts a tran­shis­tor­i­cal recon­struc­tion of the lost home” and the lat­ter thrives in algia, the long­ing itself” and explores ways of inhab­it­ing many places at once.”[7] Porch­es are anachro­nis­tic and exceed­ing­ly contemporary.

Absence / pres­ence: Last year, dur­ing my res­i­den­cy at a near­by arts cen­ter, I set out to build a porch with­out a house—a porch that would rely on its itself for sup­port but would recall its con­nec­tions to house and home. Out for a walk in the neigh­bor­hood next to the cen­ter, I encoun­tered a vacant lot where a house had recent­ly been demol­ished. Patch­es of bright green grass remained, amid upturned sand and dirt, around a con­crete slab swept clean of walls, plumb­ing, and tiles. Only the porch remained. Its side walls cant­ed out­ward, its thin roof sagged, and its cate­nary form was rem­i­nis­cent of Paul Rudolph’s Cocoon House, which still stands across the penin­su­la on the oth­er coast. In the house’s absence, after­noon sun fills the porch. The roof’s shad­ow drapes down across the screen, evap­o­rates the mesh, and fur­ther dema­te­ri­al­izes the porch. Its crys­talline lens also brings the back­yard clos­er, in sharp­er focus. Here is a porch to nature in the house’s absence.

Sta­ble / pre­car­i­ous: A porch hov­ers between com­fort and dis­com­fort, secu­ri­ty and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty, sta­bil­i­ty and pre­car­i­ous­ness.[8] How a porch resists a storm is that it lets the storm inside. Rain moves in and out, and wind moves through. The slope of a porch’s floor sheds rain­fall, whether through scup­pers or between floor­boards. Porch­es assume inun­da­tion. They also meet air on its own terms; and screens offer a degree of resis­tance, but most are only designed to with­stand one-hun­dred-mile-per-hour wind speeds. Porch­es may rely on their hous­es for struc­tur­al sup­port, but they also depend on their own pre­car­i­ty, out there on the house’s edge, for sur­vival in hur­ri­canes and oth­er extreme weath­er events.[9] In 1992, I moved to south Flori­da to repair a house dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Andrew. I mar­veled at the dura­bil­i­ty of two porch­es can­tilevered off the sec­ond floor of the house. They had lost only their screens and a few inch­es of their can­tilever when the hurricane’s cen­ter tracked right over the house. No one knows for sure how fast the winds blew because all of the offi­cial, pub­licly-fund­ed wind gauges failed before the storm reached its peak. But one pri­vate­ly-owned device a few miles north of the porch reg­is­tered what is now accept­ed as the max­i­mum speed, a 79.4 meters-per-sec­ond (177-mile-per-hour) gust that last­ed one minute. Before his anemome­ter blew away and before sci­en­tif­ic tests lat­er down­grad­ed the wind speed, the ama­teur mete­o­rol­o­gist claimed a read­ing of 95 meters per sec­ond (212 mph).[10] I imag­ine him out there on his own porch, squint­ing through squalls, the roar of wind in his ears.

Unknown / known: A stranger at home, Odysseus sleeps in his own echo­ing por­ti­co. He sleeps where suit­ors and, lat­er in ear­ly Chris­t­ian church­es, the unbap­tized await, on a porch along the edges of hos­pi­tal­i­ty, under the roof but out­side the inte­ri­or cham­bers of house, palace or church. Here, on this palace’s porch, Odysseus eaves­drops on the suit­ors who pur­sue his wife Pene­lope inside, and a goatherd teas­es the dis­guised hero, where ani­mals des­tined for the feast are teth­ered. And lat­er, Odysseus over­hears Pene­lope cry­ing in her bed­room as he lies awake and plots his return.

Com­pro­mise: On Novem­ber 22, 1916, writer Jack Lon­don died on the sleep­ing porch of his Beau­ty Ranch cot­tage. Three years ear­li­er, he com­posed When the World Was Young,” the sto­ry of James Ward, a suc­cess­ful but afflict­ed busi­ness­man. Aware of his atavis­tic ten­den­cies, Ward builds him­self a porch for sleep­ing on the sec­ond sto­ry of his house. Not one but two lay­ers of screen thwart his night­ly escapes to the woods: Here he at least breathed the blessed night air.”[11] Each night his cook locks him up in the porch, and lets him out in the morning.

In / out: John Muir famous­ly sug­gest­ed that to go out is real­ly going in.[12] On a porch, inte­ri­or­i­ty just might be housed out of doors. The nat­u­ral­ist Muir was not one to wor­ry about dis­crete bound­aries. He slept on Yosemite’s pine nee­dle as read­i­ly as a bed. The shel­ter he can­tilevered off the Yosemite sawmill where he worked was shot through with win­dows, sky­lights, and gaps between boards and bat­tens. The hen lad­der that sloped up to what he called his hang-nest” host­ed farm ani­mals and humans. 

Near / peras: A ques­tion that set this porch research in motion was what hap­pens when camp­ing returns home. I think that’s why his­to­ri­an Fred­er­ick Jack­son Turn­er pitched a tent on the back porch of his Cam­bridge house. Teach­ing Har­vard stu­dents about a nation’s reced­ing fron­tiers, he sought new fringes clos­er to home.

Imma­nence / tran­scen­dence: Paul Strand steps out onto his porch to make pic­tures. He watch­es sun­light carve shad­ows in the floor­boards, and the pho­tog­ra­ph­er tips a round table on its side to find light on paint­ed wood. Lat­er in the day, he steps off the porch, lays down in the yard’s sun-warmed grass, and watch­es clouds clip the oblique cor­ner of his porch. Alfred Stieglitz called Strand’s porch pho­tographs direct expression[s] of today” and said that the pho­tog­ra­ph­er had actu­al­ly done some­thing from with­in,” and some believe that abstrac­tion was born here on this worka­day porch in rur­al Con­necti­cut.[13] Across the Atlantic, Sig­urd Lew­er­entz was design­ing the Wood­land Ceme­tery in Stock­holm.[14] The archi­tect matched arbo­re­al form with spir­i­tu­al pres­ence in the Res­ur­rec­tion Chapel’s porch, where the slight­est skew—inches between chapel and porch—opens a sliv­er of blue sky, mark­ing tran­si­tions between liv­ing and dying.[15]

Veil­ing / reflect­ing: Lit from inside at night, the porch opens as a pri­vate stage. Dur­ing the day, sun­light shrouds a pub­lic inte­ri­or. The screen­ing mate­r­i­al itself con­tributes to this veil­ing phe­nom­e­non. Most screen, whether met­al or cheap­er fiber­glass, has a reflec­tive fin­ish while the poros­i­ty of its weave lets light through.

Mate­r­i­al / imma­te­r­i­al: On the porch, there are also times of the day when the screens evap­o­rate. They become translu­cent, and I remem­ber air. They remind me how Luce Iri­garay con­nects breath­ing and being; she says that Hei­deg­ger for­got air and that what is for­got­ten is always recalled.”[16] It is hard­er to for­get air in a place like Flori­da, where air feels like water and the slight­est breeze cools the skin. 

Breeze / breath: Read­ing Iri­garay and liv­ing on the porch, I became fas­ci­nat­ed with the breath­ing body, as well as the breath­ing porch. A few years ago, I decid­ed to paint the porch ceil­ing robin’s egg blue, and I hung visqueen—painter’s plas­tic sheeting—from the inside edge of the porch. Half a mil­lime­ter thick, the plas­tic soon bil­lowed in the air of what I had only per­ceived as a wind­less day. The bot­tom of the sheet lift­ed slow­ly as if reach­ing for the porch’s back wall. Its sev­en feet fell short of the porch’s ten-foot depth, but its per­for­mance charged the porch’s full breadth as it furled and float­ed on freshets of air. Here were the most sub­tle move­ments of air, bare­ly per­cep­ti­ble on my skin and only inter­mit­tent­ly vis­i­ble in leaves and grass­es out­side. I lat­er hung a heav­ier scrim from the porch ceil­ing to study how air molds fab­ric and how light and shad­ow play across the screened wall. The scrim’s top edge glowed with the ceiling’s blue sheen; detail pho­tographs of this joint have the uncan­ny effect of a Rothko paint­ings. The open­ings of the porch screen—a stan­dard six­teen-by-six­teen weave—provided just enough open­ness to the air, and the screen’s stretch afford­ed just enough ten­sion at this thinnest of thresh­olds. A porch’s resis­tance suf­fices; it is just enough.

Porous / bound­ary: If light treads care­ful­ly on either side of mesh, sound trav­els eas­i­ly through a porch screen. And so do some bugs. Despite its insect screen” moniker, mesh requires spe­cif­ic den­si­ties of weave—and close tol­er­ances of production—to resist the intru­sion of insects. Based on research into the behavior—and trans­gres­sive abilities—of Aedes mos­qui­toes, a grid of six­teen by six­teen wires per inch became the indus­try stan­dard around the mid­dle of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Post­war pro­duc­tion econ­o­mized the weave to eigh­teen warp wires and four­teen weft wires; and research here at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da, in a region sat­u­rat­ed by wet­lands and mos­qui­toes, found that twen­ty-by-twen­ty screen­ing marks the thresh­old of bal­anc­ing open­ness and clo­sure. Researchers warned that high­er wire den­si­ties notice­ably reduced vis­i­bil­i­ty and air cir­cu­la­tion.[17] Mean­while, the tiny bit­ing gnats—known as no-see’ums—crawled on through the one-mil­lime­ter openings. 

Invis­i­ble / vis­i­ble: Birds and dig­i­tal scan­ners have a hard­er time fath­om­ing the ambi­gu­i­ties of porch screens. Mar­jorie Kin­nan Rawl­ings tells this sto­ry: One day I self­ish­ly picked all the hibis­cus blos­soms and put them in a bowl on the veran­da table. A hum­ming­bird tried to dart through the screen to come at them. His nee­dle-bill caught in the wire and I loos­ened it gen­tly. He flew away and perched on the fence and shook him­self and tried to adjust him­self to invis­i­ble bar­ri­ers.”[18] A while ago, I made a three-dimen­sion­al dig­i­tal scan of Rawl­ings’ porch in Cross Creek. The scan­ner did not know what to make of the mesh screens, the reflec­tions in the French doors along the porch’s back wall, the flick­er of morn­ing through the pine trees, the zigzag of chick­ens in the front yard, and the gen­er­al inde­ter­mi­na­cy of the porch’s space. Which is to say that a porch resists doc­u­men­ta­tion because it is made from both the vis­i­ble and the invis­i­ble. For Dewey, this is a ques­tion of what is known and unknown and the two sides of exis­tence: The vis­i­ble is set in the invis­i­ble; and in the end what is unseen decides what hap­pens in the seen; the tan­gi­ble rests pre­car­i­ous­ly upon the untouched and ungrasped.”[19]

Air / water: Philip Lovell advo­cat­ed the health­ful ben­e­fits of fresh air in his Care of the Body” columns for the LA Times. He sought this same fresh air on the sleep­ing porch­es of the beach house Rudolph Schindler designed for him. But less than a year after its com­ple­tion, Lovell asked the archi­tect to enclose this ele­vat­ed tray of space that opened out toward the Pacif­ic. Much lat­er, in a 1978 inter­view, Dione Neu­tra attrib­uted the change to the porch­es fill­ing with water. The new­ly glazed spaces still har­bored sun­light, though at the expense of fresh air and fog’s del­i­cate mois­ture.[20] Dione also expe­ri­enced anoth­er of the architect’s porch projects when she and archi­tect Richard Neu­tra lived coop­er­a­tive­ly with the Schindlers. She recalled how every­one car­ried umbrel­las when they climbed up to the sleep­ing bas­kets at the Kings Road House.[21]

Com­ing / going: When Frank Lloyd Wright stepped inside the Glass House, he asked Philip John­son whether he should take his hat off or leave it on. 

Athena / Posei­don: John­son based the plan of the Glass House on the North Porch of the Erechtheum, where Zeus’s thun­der­bolt pierced the roof and Poseidon’s tri­dent made three deep scratch­es in the mar­ble floor dur­ing the con­test for Athens. The temple’s west­ern porch housed Athena’s olive tree.

Porch / prac­tice: Tun­ing per­son and place also means that porch­es are spaces for rad­i­cal prac­tice. bell hooks iden­ti­fies the porch, in con­trast to the patri­ar­chal house­hold, as a demo­c­ra­t­ic meet­ing place, capa­ble of con­tain­ing folks from var­i­ous walks of life, with diverse per­spec­tives.” For her, this free-float­ing space” is a small every­day place of antiracist resis­tance” where she and her sis­ters and moth­er could prac­tice the eti­quette of civil­i­ty.”[22] Porch­es anchor prac­tices amid social reck­on­ing, envi­ron­men­tal cri­sis, and the pandemic’s many dis­place­ments of body and com­mu­ni­ty.[23]

Social / dis­tance: Piano teach­ers gave lessons from their porch­es dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, jazz musi­cians regaled small social­ly dis­tanced audi­ences from their Brook­lyn porch­es, home-bound Insta­gram­mers snapped #porch­traits on their front porch­es, and neigh­bors talked through screens from side­walk to porch in scenes that might have seemed anti­quat­ed and sen­ti­men­tal if they weren’t so bril­liant­ly and imme­di­ate­ly resilient. Porch­es are ready­made spaces for social distancing. 

Sur­veilled / sur­veilling: His­tor­i­cal­ly, porch­es have been spaces to watch peo­ple and watch out for neigh­bors. Now, all eyes are on porch pirates, and many porch­es house sur­veil­lance equip­ment like Ring cam­eras that watch over pack­ages deliv­ered from Ama­zon, the video doorbell’s par­ent com­pa­ny. Porch piracy’s allit­er­a­tion sput­ters with indig­na­tion and fear as it alludes to law­less­ness born on a porch’s inde­ter­mi­nate space float­ing on seas of anx­i­ety and capitalism.

Mon­u­men­tal / per­son­al: Pres­i­dents have long sought escape along the White House’s edges. William Taft paced the South Portico’s roof, Dwight Eisen­how­er grilled hot dogs behind the roof’s para­pet, and Ted­dy Roo­sevelt viewed the hardy life of the open” from a makeshift out­post atop the nation­al sym­bol.[24] On May 22, 1918, Colonel C. S. Rid­ley draft­ed plans for a sleep­ing shel­ter that would soon be teth­ered atop the White House. Rid­ley had includ­ed a small stair in the design so that Woodrow Wil­son, exhaust­ed by war and ill­ness, could step out the third-floor bed­room win­dow into the screened room tucked behind the South Portico’s heavy balustrade. Here was a pres­i­dent lay­ing prone, vul­ner­a­ble under the stars, atop a domes­tic mon­u­ment, his raspy breath drift­ing out over the Potomac.

Open / closed: On a porch, imag­i­na­tion runs wild. It is a place where open-mind­ed­ness is not sim­ply being open, but resist­ing clo­sure: The mind that is open mere­ly in the sense that it pas­sive­ly per­mits things to trick­le in and through will not be able to resist the fac­tors that make for men­tal clo­sure.”[25] To illus­trate the work of active­ly main­tain­ing open­ness, Dewey notes that this is a par­tic­u­lar kind of hos­pi­tal­i­ty: an active desire to lis­ten to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from what­ev­er source they come; to give full atten­tion to alter­na­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties; to rec­og­nize the pos­si­bil­i­ty of error even in the beliefs that are dear­est to us.” On a porch, we can think; we can also write, talk, watch, sweat, sketch, read, sleep, and paint.

Per­haps Cézanne joins Dewey and Fel­lows on the porch, set­ting down his easel just inside the porch’s screen door. I won­der if either ever saw Kerr-Xavier Roussel’s pho­to­graph of the painter there in Mont Sainte-Victoire’s shad­ow, lean­ing into his can­vas, his brush poised, sus­pend­ed between vision and the next stroke.

  1. 1

    The Smith­sons wrote: The porch can be read as an exem­plar of a method by which a small phys­i­cal change – a lay­er­ing-over of air adhered to an exist­ing fab­ric – can bring about a del­i­cate tun­ing of per­sons with place.” The Charged Void: Archi­tec­ture (New York: Mona­cel­li Press, 2001), 552.

  2. 2

    See Jay Fel­lows, Janu­sian Thresh­olds,” Per­spec­ta 19 (1982): 43–57. Through Fel­lows’ work, I am also bor­row­ing from Mikhail Bakhtin’s The Dia­log­ic Imag­i­na­tion, trans. Caryl Emer­son and Michael Holquist (Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 1981). Fel­lows writes how Bakhtin per­ceives oppo­si­tions that might be held simul­ta­ne­ous­ly with­out the com­fort of dialec­ti­cal medi­a­tion” (44).

  3. 3

    Dewey had already iden­ti­fied the prob­lems when resis­tance is mis­un­der­stood and mis­used: Resis­tance is treat­ed as an obstruc­tion to be beat­en down, not as an invi­ta­tion to reflec­tion…. That which dis­tin­guish­es an expe­ri­ence as aes­thet­ic is con­ver­sion of resis­tance and ten­sions….” Expe­ri­ence, in Dewey’s telling, is like breath­ing and its rhythm of intak­ings and out­giv­ings.” Dewey writes: Expe­ri­ence is lim­it­ed by all the caus­es which inter­fere with per­cep­tion of the rela­tions between under­go­ing and doing. There may be inter­fer­ence because of excess on the side of doing or of excess on the side of recep­tiv­i­ty, of under­go­ing. Unbal­ance on either side blurs the per­cep­tion of rela­tions and leaves the expe­ri­ence par­tial and dis­tort­ed, with scant or false mean­ing.” See Art as Expe­ri­ence (New York, Capri­corn Books, 1939), 35–57.

  4. 4

    None of these pair­ings are dialec­tics to be resolved by medi­a­tion. Instead, a porch is a Janu­sian thresh­old in the spir­it of Jay Fel­lows’ posit­ed spaces that hold con­tra­dic­tions and oppo­si­tions, rather than resolve them. A porch’s double-sidedness—its ele­ments that face’ both ways, like Janus—help in this matter.

  5. 5

    Gior­gio Agam­ben writes of this dia­logue in terms of fash­ion. See "What Is the Con­tem­po­rary?” in What Is an Appa­ra­tus?’ and Oth­er Essays (Red­wood City: Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2009), 47–49.

  6. 6

    Like­wise, this lexicon/diary may be mete­o­ro­log­i­cal, and in fact weath­er diaries were some of the ear­li­est ver­sions of the form. Fel­lows adds the fol­low­ing, lodged in brack­ets: “[Fur­ther, it would seem only fit­ting for the key intro­duc­to­ry word of a text deal­ing with insides-out­sides, the inten­sive-exten­sive, to be whether—a dia­crit­i­cal word of options, of the dou­ble-faced Janus that will include rever­sals and inver­sions which change like a mete­o­ro­log­i­cal weath­er that can­not be pre­dict­ed.]” (45)

  7. 7

    Svet­lana Boym, The Future of Nos­tal­gia (New York: Basic, 2002), xvi­ii. Boym notes that nos­tal­gic time is that time-out-of-time-of day­dream­ing and long­ing that jeop­ar­dizes one’s timeta­bles and work eth­ic….” (xxi), and I have also won­dered how porch­es engage chronos and kairos.

  8. 8

    John Dewey expand­ed on this lat­ter pair­ing as the very foun­da­tion of phi­los­o­phy: it is the intri­cate mix­ture of the sta­ble and the pre­car­i­ous, the fixed and the unpre­dictably nov­el, the assured and the uncer­tain, in exis­tence which sets mankind upon that love of wis­dom which forms phi­los­o­phy.” Expe­ri­ence and Nature, in The Lat­er Works, 1925–1953, vol. 1, ed. Jo Ann Boyd­ston (Car­bon­dale: South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1981), 55.

  9. 9

    In fact, many porch­es are not reg­u­lat­ed by hur­ri­cane codes.

  10. 10

    Sci­en­tists at Vir­ginia Tech ran tests on the same brand of anemome­ter and deter­mined its fail­ure thresh­old to be 79.4 (177mph). See Mark D. Pow­ell et al, "Hur­ri­cane Andrew's Land­fall in South Flori­da. Part I: Stan­dard­iz­ing Mea­sure­ments for Doc­u­men­ta­tion of Sur­face Wind Fields," Weath­er and Fore­cast­ing 11, 3 (1996): 304–328, accessed Sep 6, 2022,–0434.

  11. 11

    Jack Lon­don, When the World Was Young,” The Night-Born (New York: Cen­tu­ry, 1913), 65–98.

  12. 12

    Muir writes: Not like my tak­ing the veil—no solemn abju­ra­tion of the world. I only went out for a walk, and final­ly con­clud­ed to stay out till sun­down, for going out, I found, was real­ly going in.” See John Muir, John of the Moun­tains: The Unpub­lished Jour­nals of John Muir, ed. Lin­nie Marsh Wolfe (Madi­son: Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin Press, 1938/1979), 439.

  13. 13

    Alfred Stiegelitz, Our Illus­tra­tions,” Cam­era Work, nos. 49/50 (June 1917): 36.

  14. 14

    For an expand­ed dis­cus­sion of Lewerentz’s projects, see the chap­ter Blue” in my book The Porch (Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2021).

  15. 15

    In Janu­sian Thresh­olds,” Fel­lows sand­wich­es the pair­ing of imma­nence and tran­scen­dence between insides and out­sides’ and begin­nings and end­ings’ as he intro­duces the nego­ti­a­tions of framed thresholds.

  16. 16

    Luce Iri­garay, The For­get­ting of Air, trans. Mary Beth Mad­er (Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 1999), 62.

  17. 17

    S. S. Block, Insect Tests of Wire Screen­ing Effec­tive­ness,” Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Pub­lic Health 36 (Novem­ber 1946): 1279–86.

  18. 18

    Rawl­ings, Cross Creek (New York: Simon and Schus­ter, 1996), 280.

  19. 19

    Dewey, Expe­ri­ence and Nature, 43–44.

  20. 20

    Dione Neu­tra, inter­viewed by Lawrence Weschler, Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia, Oral His­to­ry Pro­gram, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Los Ange­les, 1978. Dione Neu­tra said: Orig­i­nal­ly, the bed­rooms were con­ceived as dress­ing areas, with beds locat­ed out­side on sleep­ing porch­es, but not long after the house was built, despite Lovell’s belief in the virtues of sleep­ing out­side, the Lovells request­ed that the sleep­ing porch­es be enclosed due to the evening fog. Schindler moved the win­dows of the dress­ing areas out to enclose the sleep­ing porch­es.” Oth­ers have claimed it was fog that vexed the Lovells. See Judith Scheine, Lovell Beach House,” SAH Archipedia, accessed 21 Sep­tem­ber 2022,–059-0108.

  21. 21

    Inter­view with Dione Neu­tra by Weschler, 1.6. TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (July 14, 1978); library of UCLA. Dione fur­ther described the pub­lic and pri­vate nature of the sleep­ing bas­kets at Kings Road: The pri­va­cy was some­thing which we were not used to, this open liv­ing. And lat­er on, when we moved into the larg­er apart­ment, our bed­room was an open sleep­ing porch out­side, which you reached by a lit­tle stairway….”

  22. 22

    bell hooks, Belong­ing: A Cul­ture of Place (New York: Rout­ledge, 2009), 121.

  23. 23

    See Char­lie Hai­ley, Porch Prac­tice,” forth­com­ing in The Pan­dem­ic Effect (New York: Prince­ton Archi­tec­tur­al Press, 2023).

  24. 24

    Theodore Roo­sevelt, August 31, 1910, speech in Osawatomie, Kansas.

  25. 25

    John Dewey, Essays and How We Think in The Lat­er Works of John Dewey, vol. 8 (Car­bon­dale: South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2008), 136.


Agam­ben, Gior­gio. What Is an Appa­ra­tus?’ and Oth­er Essays. Red­wood City: Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2009.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dia­log­ic Imag­i­na­tion. Trans. Caryl Emer­son and Michael Holquist. Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 1981.

Block, S. S. Insect Tests of Wire Screen­ing Effec­tive­ness.” Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Pub­lic Health 36 (Novem­ber 1946): 1279–86.

Boym, Svet­lana. The Future of Nos­tal­gia. New York: Basic, 2002.

Dewey, John. Art as Expe­ri­ence. New York, Capri­corn Books, 1939.

Dewey, John. Expe­ri­ence and Nature, in The Lat­er Works, 1925–1953, vol. 1. Ed. Jo Ann Boyd­ston. Car­bon­dale: South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1981.

Dewey, John. Essays and How We Think in The Lat­er Works of John Dewey, vol. 8. Car­bon­dale: South­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2008.

Fel­lows, Jay. Janu­sian Thresh­olds.” Per­spec­ta 19 (1982): 43–57.

Hai­ley, Char­lie. The Porch: Med­i­ta­tions on the Edge of Nature. Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2021.

hooks, bell. Belong­ing: A Cul­ture of Place. New York: Rout­ledge, 2009.

Iri­garay, Luce. The For­get­ting of Air. Trans. Mary Beth Mad­er. Austin: Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Press, 1999.

Lon­don, Jack. When the World Was Young.” The Night-Born. New York: Cen­tu­ry, 1913.

Muir, John. John of the Moun­tains: The Unpub­lished Jour­nals of John Muir. Ed. Lin­nie Marsh Wolfe. Madi­son: Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin Press, 1938/1979.

Pow­ell, Mark D., Samuel H. Hous­ton, and Tim­o­thy A. Rein­hold. "Hur­ri­cane Andrew's Land­fall in South Flori­da. Part I: Stan­dard­iz­ing Mea­sure­ments for Doc­u­men­ta­tion of Sur­face Wind Fields." Weath­er and Fore­cast­ing 11, 3 (1996): 304–328.

Rawl­ings, Mar­jorie Kin­nan. Cross Creek. New York: Simon and Schus­ter, 1996.

Smith­son, Ali­son and Peter. The Charged Void: Archi­tec­ture. New York: Mona­cel­li Press, 2001.

Stiegelitz, Alfred. Our Illus­tra­tions.” Cam­era Work, nos. 49/50 (June 1917): 36.