October 13, 2014

Architecture is all about understanding. Understanding what a client wants and needs. Understanding what space should feel like and how to create it; how high the ceiling should be, where the windows should face, what materials to use to conjure up specific moods according to colour, touch, warmth. Understanding what really matters.

A building becomes a container of materials that should be carefully picked to depict a whole. Materials become an architect’s tool for realisation[1] and an integral element in the architectural process, but only a mere part of a much larger vision.

In Katie Lloyd Thomas’ piece titled ‘Going into the Mould’, there is much talk of matter being separate from form[2], and how this dichotomy can lead to the detachment from process[3]. This detachment from process is an integral element of what I consider to be posthuman; where ones actions are only seen for what they are and not what they do. However is matter always separate from form, or can good architecture be considered a point at which they meet to create a well orchestrated whole?

It is my belief that good architecture can and should make one present and aware through spatial qualities and materiality. By designing according to the senses and truly thinking about human nature, we are able to create space that positively demands the users attention, bringing them into the present. Whilst this may not be telling of the whole manufacturing process (for example the embodied energy that has gone into the making of those materials and the impact this has on the environment), to affect ones actions, bring their eyes up from their iphone and force them to really see, should be considered a huge success in today’s face-paced, technological world.

This is a goal for all architects to aspire to. The ability to understand and positively affect human behaviour and disposition is what separates us from builders and engineers. This is what should be driving an architect’s vision, leaving issues of buildability and engineering to follow as a means to an end. Once a design is dreamt up it can always be tweaked to be realised, but maintaining design integrity is what really matters.

Emma Crea


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[1] Katie Lloyd Thomas , ‘Going into the Mould’ in Radical Philosophy, vol. 144, July/August 2007, p. 17

[2] Katie Lloyd Thomas , ‘Going into the Mould’ in Radical Philosophy, vol. 144, July/August 2007, p. 18

[3] Katie Lloyd Thomas , ‘Going into the Mould’ in Radical Philosophy, vol. 144, July/August 2007, p. 24


3 Responses to “WHAT REALLY MATTERS”

  1. eltejp Says:

    One thing that could also be brought into this equation is the disassociation from cause and effect that rapid technological progress leads to. It seems that technological and scientific progress requires more and more specialization. Over time that specialization results in the single actor understanding less and less of what and how it’s actions affects the outcome. It might in the end be reduced to the way an actor uses an iPhone, the only knowledge of cause and effect it has is that which the things creator wants the actor to see. The actor uses it without any knowledge of what is actually going on when it touches the button to start an app. It knows only that x causes y. In the same vein the architect might because of not knowing enough of how we build that he is reduced to choosing from catalogues of parts rather than drawing them herself.

  2. emmarcrea Says:

    Dan, thank you for your well thought out response. I do agree that good architecture puts people first. ‘People’ are the clients, the users, and generally the sole motivators for architecture to exist. However I am not sure that I agree with you when you say: “the entire profession suffers when architect values their occupation as anything more than a job”. Saying this seems to devalue the profession and sets the wrong frame of mind to tackle something that deals with creating so much. Architecture deals not only with materials, structures, cities, landscapes, and space; it also deals with business, atmospheres and psychology. To paraphrase you, it fuses many facets, and ultimately creates space for us to spend our existence in.

    I believe that good architecture (like anything else) requires true passion, and true passion requires something much more than just mediocre. If we look at architecture as just a job then what room are we paving for the innovation and excitement that keeps this profession moving forward?

  3. danvansch Says:

    A piece of architecture is far more than the matter it is constructed of and the form it takes. Calling it a ‘container’ undersells its purpose and relegates it to the static. When referring to the work of an architect, a more appropriate description of a building would be to call it a ‘vessel.’

    Architects design for the dynamic; they are employed to create a vessel to carry occupants and matter through time. However the act of doing so is not what makes them unique from builders or engineers, what makes them unique is the fact that they are expected to.

    As much as it pains me to say it, anyone can design a garden, house, office block, factory, tower etc. as long as they have enough money to control the outcome. Speaking from an Australian point of view, builders for example, can by-pass the use of an architect by paying a draftsperson to draw up their ideas. The subsequent plans will most likely be approved and the dwellings occupied. The tenants may or may not be aware of (or even care about) the spatial qualities their new home provides, but it will at least comply with the standards of living enforced by the government and include the amenities that local society has come to expect.

    This type of construction is still ‘a piece of architecture,’ because it is driven by the context in which it is constructed. Be it to a bare minimum or not, it is still a vessel that sits within a dynamic human landscape and attempts to cater to the spatial needs of the occupant. Put simply, ever if an engineer, builder, developer, employer etc. doesn’t care about the needs of the occupant, they are still required to comply with the expectations and/or rules set by society and as a consequence ‘architecture’ is created.

    Architects are amplifiers to the past, present and future expectations set by society. Their role is to listen, predict, serve and innovate, all whilst remaining as dynamic as the environment they work in. Through our title, we are afforded the right to explore the design of buildings in an effort to build on the basic frameworks already set by society. Integrity is an overrated term in the industry because it restricts the architect’s ability to remain fluid. We are educated spatial consultants to society, not pure manipulators of matter. Unlike a sculptor who can work purely with matter (materials) to create form, an architect needs to work with the needs of human beings to create occupiable spatial forms that attempt to improve current standards of living.

    Selfish architecture is archaic, we are not special; the entire profession suffers when an architect values their occupation as anything more than a job. Good architecture fuses all facets of the design and construction process; it is humble, educated and above all puts people first.

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