The places that define us
How does architecture gain meaning? When does it become more about purpose and not just value? What are the things that define our built environment?
The idea that the primary basis for architecture is function has driven us to relentlessly pursue value in the form of quantifiable numbers over the abstract and subjective character of human beings.
I see myself as a very simple person. All I need to get through my days is a bit of architecture along with a pen and paper to sketch out my thoughts. All I need to enjoy my days are my books and my toys. These are the things that define me. They are the small amenities that allow me to find meaning beyond just simple existence.
Our built environment is defined by the amenities that we have. A house becomes personal as it provides the gardener with a lush garden and the cook with the perfect kitchen. Wide open verandas and ample daylighting are some luxuries that define what we love and enjoy as unique individuals. A simple backyard with a basketball ring or a fully equipped home gym are things that many of us cannot imagine living without.
Four walls and a roof may enclose a space, but architecture exists in the program and articulation that are brought about by human peculiarities and social interests. I am always amazed by how many homebuilders determine what their homes need by looking at what is “common” or what they have experienced rather than what they want or who they are. It is as if there is a belief that there is a “right” kind of home written down in some hallowed architecture tome. The most lavish kitchen is wasted on someone who never eats at home, so is the most spacious living room wasted on someone who prefers to play video games alone in his room.
Architecture is not the practice of what is standard or accepted. It is an endeavor to imagine what is possible for each space. This is often what we architects forget about our role in society. That we do not merely exist to build or design solutions, but rather to serve as a platform and a means of creating new ideas and building a better vision for tomorrow.
The places that define our cities
If our homes and its individual amenities define who we are, so do public amenities define our communities. The richness and vibrance of our cities are cultivated and defined by the civic spaces we choose to preserve or build. Our history and character as a people are traced and developed through the public spaces that bring us all together.
We yearn for a city that is more than just a place, a city where knowledge and culture are cherished and preserved in libraries and museums, schools and theaters. We want a city we can fall in love with as we trace our steps day in and day out. Our current times are defined as a moment of survival and existence, yet we must strive not just to protect the things that provide value, but also value the things that will give meaning in the days to come.
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