Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Space I'm In

I have been inspired to write this essay by a blogpost I just read over at one of my favorite blogs, BLDGBLOG. You may want to read want to read Mr. Manaugh's essay before you read the rest of this post so you understand what I am talking about.

I have visited many, many cities over my short life - and feel very fortunate that I have been able to do so. As I have aged, architecture and the ways that it integrates into our daily lives is a subject that has become more and more interesting to me. I don't like going into stores that are not hospitable. Like most, I have, at times, a stress filled day. The last thing I want to do is go into a grocery store that has been designed to hold the maximum amount of inventory under cheap, invasive, cold lighting that hurts my head rather than a store that is built to optimize human traffic patterns, and make my experience more enjoyable through modern lighting techniques (as an example). To me, architecture isn't just the way a building is built, it is the way it affects the populus inside it, outside it and around it.

Photo credit here.

When driving through neighborhoods looking for a house many times you will encounter the above. Terrible boxes, terrible spaces, designed illogically with no regard to the orientation of the sun or prevailing winds. No chances, no interest. Does life really have to be this way? I will admit that the space that I live in isn't perfect as relates to what I have described above. But is it isn't what is in that photo, either. Before settling on my current abode my wife and I outright rejected many houses because they were...well...ugly. Or designed so illogically inside that they could never be made useful to live in. The inside is just as important as the outside.

Photo credit here.

As I stated before, chances in architecture is what it is all about, in my opinion. How did the designer know that this would work the way it did? Sure computers can simulate things but until the structure actually rises and real live humans are inside - how do you know? Will we be awestruck or just wonder what the hell is going on here?

Of course there are some structures that you just look at and go - holy crap! Photo credit here.

This is the "Duomo" in Milan, probably the most majestic piece of architecture I have ever laid my own eyes on. But I also enjoy a supermarket or simple living place that is designed WELL just as much. It is too bad that in this day and age that we care less and less about logical design, well done lighting, etc. and care more and more about - volume. Do you ever feel compressed? Not physically, but mentally? As if the architect that designed the space you are currently in, whether residential or commercial, didn't care if you were there or not?

Photo credit here.

Everyone hates to go to the DMV to get their licenses renewed. Does every single DMV location have to have caustic interiors? No soothing music? Factory lighting? Are we prisoners or citizens? Photo credit here.

You know it really doesn't have to be this way. Photo credit here.

So what am I saying? That we should all rise up and have an architectural revolution? Nah. It isn't for everyone. And stores that are just big boxes with factory style fluorescent lighting serve their purpose. I like a deal occasionally too. But there is no reason that cities and/or residential architects can't take a chance once in a while - you never know until you try.


Frank Borger said...

When I went to IIT in Chicago, I lived (er existed,) in a Mies box for 4 years.

Many referred to his style of architecture as "Steel and glass up the *ss."

But was much worse was the dysfunctional nature of the buildings.

You could open the front door of the Frat quicker with a coathanger or the bow of your glasses.

We called them "poker windows" because "It took jacks or better to open."

The first good spring rain after opening the new Student Union, custodians were bringing in buckets from all over campus to collect leaks. While doing an article for the school paper, I counted 30-odd buckets, and the number kept going up each time I orbited the hall.

Floor to ceiling glass meant the south side of the house was 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the north side. (There was no zoning for the heating.)

OTOH, there are 6 Frank Lloyd Wright houses on the south shore of Delavan Lake, and they are beautiful, IMHO.)

Dan from Madison said...

HA I love the poker windows comment. I agree architecture for architecture's sake doesn't do any good for anyone if the inhabitants can't exist comfortably. And I am a huge Wright fan - but would probably never live in one of those houses for many of the same reasons you have outlined here.