U1-What is architecture

What is architecture? In my opinion, it is a rather difficult question. It is not because it is an unintelligible or imaginary concept, since we can very much see, touch, sense architecture. I believe it is a hard question to answer because of how changeable, relative and how open architecture is as a concept. So it is nearly impossible to delimit such in just one definition. Architecture is many things, or so it seemed to me when one day in class we were asked to define it. It was too complex, too broad.

However, in the end, after some thinking I came up with the idea that architecture is an art. But it is an art conditioned and delimited by reality. While when painting a picture, you can escape reality. You can paint whatever comes to your mind, there are no rules, no limits. Opposed to this, an architect can’t ignore reality. There is an inevitable and eternal bond between architecture and reality. He or she has to face it. Every work must be adapted to it. By this I refer to the fact that the final result of a work is quite different to the initial idea of the architect. It is impossible to bring the idea to life in an exact way. This is because architecture must answer, for example, to the conditions of the terrain or the climate of the area, but most importantly to people’s necessities. This is the difference with other arts, in architecture there is a direct relationship with this matters. Painters choose whether they want to adjust to reality or to reflect the most delusional aspects of human nature. The painter makes a choice: reality or fantasy. The architect doesn’t, because he or she can’t. This is mainly because an artist work depends on no other than themself, while the architect’s depends on many aspects.

The house has to please everyone, contrary to the work of art which does not. The work is a private matter for the artist. The house is not. The work of art is brought into the world without there being a need for it. The house satisfies a requirement. The work of art is responsible to none; the house is responsible to everyone.

Adolf Loos, in his 1910 essay “Architecture”. Source: undisciplinary

Architecture is beauty brought to life, with the consequences of this. This way, architecture is a fusion between both ars (art) and tecne (technology).

Architecture is subjected to the architect’s reality and this reality is conditioned by time and space. This means, that each work reflects the era and the place where it was built. It is definitely a reflection of time. Therefore, architecture follows fashions or trends, that once they are obsolete, they will change the same way history progresses. Besides, architects are constantly seeking for improvements, in terms of beauty but also functionality -which is the understanding that it must be subjected to people’s needs-, which will lead to progress. In a more strict sense, architecture is the process of construction or the creation of spaces. This spaces will be inhabited by people. As a matter of fact, there is indeed a direct link between people’s healthcare and the spaces they live in. This is why architecture has such big resposibility with people, this is why it must answer to our needs. Understanding that we spend most of our life in spaces, we shouldn’t underestimate architecture at all. Functionality is key. Nevertheless, from my perspective, functionality should never surpass beauty. Even if fashion changes, beauty remains immutable. Beauty will always be beautiful no matter the time. However, functionality is ephemera. Functionality depends on people, and we are influenced by our reality, which is constantly transforming. By this, I mean that architecture should always evolve to beauty.

Lastly, in the last decades social awareness about the environment has risen. We are beginning to understand the importance of respecting the planet we live in, specially after the massive industrialization and of course pollution. So the same way society has a responsibility with nature, architecture does too. Because of this, architects should look for sustainability in their work.

I think buildings should imitate ecological systems. Ecological systems in nature before we had human beings you know interfere with them exist in a state of stasis – they are self-supporting, self-sustaining.

Ken Yeang, “Q&A: Ken Yeang interview”. CNN Interview, edition.cnn.com. July 20, 2007. Source: Az quotes

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