Architecture: Interior design, exterior design, landscape design, and even those places we leave “untouched”… Architecture is everywhere.
Architecture represents very nearly the entirety of our built environments: Our streets, our parks, our homes, our schools, our offices, our shops, our centres of knowledge and recreation and commerce… All these are designed for play, learning, caring, creating, gathering, living, serving, conversing… in other words, living!
Architecture, in some mix or measure, helps or hurts the ways of life and thought, and the ease of life and thought, through the collaborative visions driven by architects of many stripes.
Architecture has the ability to inspire, delight, beautify, and generally impact the flows of our daily lives. Our relationships with each other, our productivity, the beauty of our communities, and definition and identities are influences and influenced by these dialectics with architecture.
Architecture is the blended art and science of building; not just on the scale of the structure to be built, but taking into account the whole of the psychological landscape, and the physical environment in which it will be built.
Bad architecture can be a mechanism of enforcement, while good architecture can be fertile ground for growth and change.
In their work the architect manipulates space, volume, textures, and light. Their consideration for shadows, materials, timelessness and innovation. They work with, and in subversion of the values of patrons, in private and public sectors, folding together technology and science with abstractions of deeply human desires, in order to adapt to the evolving and often unconscious needs presented by individuals and collectives, for use now, and projections of the needs of the uncertain future.
With their work, the architect may begin work seeking to respond to a specific function, such as a hospital, school, recreational space, office, home, etcetera; or, aim past this for an artistic or ideological expression. These two approaches often are convergent as the project takes shape.
As individuals, we all interact with architecture. As members of our society we negotiate old and new architecture multiple times a day, even on days we only see the results produced by architecture through media, policy, or mass psychology. And, despite the legacies, and innovations we sometimes may feel “subject to”, we do receive and reshape architecture, regularly in beautiful ways. We change metaphorical and literal paths laid down for us when we cut corners en masse; and, we can measure the responsiveness of our institutions by seeing their attempts to re-sod, or fence, or in a best-case make wide the way we have voted in with our feet.
Architecture affects us, both practically and emotionally, in the way a building appears in context: our conservatism may be fed by the desire expressed to recapture mythological past with preservation or duplication of irrelevant forms. By the same take, our forms of community may be disrupted by changing functional adaptations in forms, into novelties or instruments of value extraction teleported into existing cultures. A cycle of neglect and intervention is recognizable in many places, and when projects appear without conversation with people affected by projects, this can seem like a violent mechanism. Any one instance may be in good faith, but even positive interventions will be damaged by a pattern of intervention without consultations. This is a difficult problem, which architects work against when they engage communities. This is architecture at its best. The only way to keep architecture relevant, and accepted, is to remain in dialogue with those who engage with it. The best amongst architects are in a position to broker a positive agreement between their patrons, the environment, and the polis.
Architecture speaks to us directly. Buildings, streets, and whole cities tell us who we were, who we are, and who we can be. We are told most directly where we sit in time, in identity, in matrixes such as hierarchies and ideologies, by architecture, even more and more subtly than through culture. The architect is uniquely positioned to speak to us all. They reflect, but also refract, our culture. They impact our interactions with each other, whether making these more fluid by eliminating physical obstacles, or by isolating us within bubbles of space.
The architect designs environments and habitats, taking existing landscapes, and using them to facilitate, or constrain, human interaction. The least effective architectural projects demonstrate a fear of the nature of humanity, and these are broken down and repurposed by the tides of human history; becoming, perhaps, quaint, at best used as the antithesis of their first purpose. The best in the field of architecture take a hand to enrich our interactions, from a place of faith in humanity and democracy. In so doing architects “simply” enrich our daily lives.