The first time Architecture came to life was the day a man started pushing aside the reeds of his hut to be able to see the volcano….Then he painted the cave he was in and from then on we lived in a world where Architects existed… But always the issue was about the fourth dimension that rules Architecture. It was about this little thing that separates a shelter from a home. The quest for ages was to introduce a new way of life through the environment that was created.
Today apparently we have fallen in a different world where appearance is more important than the essence. It seems that all Architects are snuffed up by the overwhelming possibilities that modern technology delivers to us. The possibilities to build what seemed not constructible a short time ago has apparently gone to Architects heads and freed of boundaries they desperately try to achieve more. For millennium technology was an essential part of the Art of building, ruled by gravity and controlled by the limitations we had in terms of representation of what we wanted to achieve. For that reason maybe the ornamental part of Architecture kicked in to try to hide the laws of physics that were ruling the industry. Money was a second factor in this deal, limited by the production means we had to find solutions that were affordable in some way. The tools being used were far more basic.
The essence of a building was the key to its success; it was loaded with content and intents. Maybe we are today in a society that has lost purpose but many of these 2D structures are strangely empty as the content goes. Often times pretty, but Architecture is not about pretty, there is more to it than “just a pretty picture” there is mood, scale, ambiance, complicity. Well everything that makes life what it is. Civilization is a choice from mankind, it did not happen by default, it was a well thought out decision. When Mies was creating his clean lines pristine buildings, he was representing an ideal of a society trying to show its quiet power. The Bauhaus was probably an effort to rationalize a hope for a more organized world more democratic. Today, I am afraid that the Architecture we are inheriting resembles strangely to our society. No values in depth, instant gratification and most probably the fear of any introspection.
Why my ancestor did pull those reeds to see the volcano? It was to create a sensation, an emotion and probably to be able to share it. Then, today? Are we only willing to share the surface and are worried about our inner soul. Are we trying to defy gravity as if it was the only rational, are we doing curves only because our drawing tools can now easily do it? There is something scary about this vacuity in many of the buildings we are seeing today.
The question is about time devoted to research, is it that the clients and or the Architects are in a hurry and spend less and less time in research and study? There are some great designers around, why the large majority of Architects are not able to understand why they are great and spend their time trying to be different Instead of listening to the building they are designing. There are many ways to be an Architect, why does each of them want to be a form giver especially and not simply a builder?
The arrogance of wanting to make a mark is unfortunately to the detriment of the end user. How many lives have been marred by the inanes of the abode designed by some of our colleagues? A little unpretentious simplicity might have done better.
The question is really this one: where to stop or where to begin? Indeed we need form givers, otherwise there would not be any progress and we would always sit in the same environment. Maybe the answer is as usual about education. Why are we trying to form Architects to be Prima donnas and not craftsmen? Is it such an infamy to be a “professional”? Most of the students that start in Architecture school are going to be employed in a studio participating in the act of building. An all-star team does not work, it needs a team and all and each has his place. There is no shame in being part of an effort and fulfilling one’s role to perfection. The real talent is to know your limitations and to deliver the best you can. As much as a nice picture is satisfying for the eyes, it is not enough. There is nothing about it that is Architecture. Architecture is about life and the world that houses it nothing else. The quality of life is not in two dimensions. Society in this century might be trying to reduce it to limited parameters, but if we are where we are it is because of all these centuries of trials we went through. Then please let’s try to go back to the board and think before drawing…