architecture inspires

Can architecture inspire you even if you are not an architect? Perhaps rhetorical, but that question got me thinking after I recently participated (again) in a career fair at my high school alma mater where I endeavored to talk about architecture as a career…in a way the students would not expect. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of the day to day job and technical details of drafting, I talked about architecture in a broader sense. Call it the professor in me. We discussed what architecture can be, and what types of things an architect must consider when designing. I showed a lot of images of architecture that I am sure they have never seen or imagined. Then we discussed the design process in an abstract, but simple way. Lastly, we briefly discussed the education of an architect…all in 20 minutes! It was a high flying series of images.

A few weeks later, the program coordinator sent me a lovely thank you note along with several thank you letters from several of the students. The words “inspire” and “inspiration” came up frequently in their letters as they discussed their reactions. I was touched and flattered and quite humbled, but I realized that despite any speaking ability on my part, architecture has the ability to inspire all by itself.

As I pondered the concept of inspiration, I thought I would share a few of the thoughts and images about architecture and design from my presentation to get your feedback.

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  • Why is architecture so important? We will likely spend almost 90% of our lifetime indoors…what indoor environment we are in will greatly affect our lives. It has been documented that architectural design can impact how we learn, heal, work and live. Our environment is largely affected by buildings and the amount of energy they use.
  • Architecture requires commitment. There is no room for ambivalence. You will either love it or hate it; there is no middle ground if you wish to be successful.
  • History is essential and can’t be ignored (sorry militant modernists). From history we get precedents, form, influence, challenges, failures and materiality.
  • Architecture is more than shelter but can be about image, expression and iconography.
  • Architecture is about ideas. Ideas can come from the location. The form can be inspired by the location. The materials can be influenced by the form.
  • Ideas become reality. Reality becomes and experience. Experience becomes a memory.
  • Architecture is about space. Space is influenced by materials, scale, people, and texture.
  • If you want to be an architect you must free your mind, break away from convention, think critically, and learn to question and when appropriate, challenge.
  • Architects explore materials and their limits and the forms they can embody. Form and materials can lead to innovation. Innovation and form with technology can lead to reinvention.
  • Architects must consider the entry and entry sequence.
  • Architects must design the parts and not just the whole. Often the parts become more important than the whole.
  • Architects consider texture, shadow, color, materials, light, shadow, nighttime as well as daytime. Light and shadow are important materials in our palette.
  • Architects should consider the other senses, touch, sound and smell besides sight (taste…?)
  • To be an architect, don’t ask why, ask why not.

Please share this with others and comment to include your own thoughts to add to this list. What inspires you?

top photo is from amesis’ photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

bottom photo is from Thomahawk1’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

architecture inspires

5 thoughts on “architecture inspires

  1. jane radocchia says:

    please comment about architecture being about creating a space in which people feel – sense – are aware. You touch on this peripherally. The proportions and rhythms of buildings create understandings that we know but rarely put into words.

    1. The beauty of architecture and the joy of the architect is we can set up potential for certain responses, but we can’t force it. How someone will react is entirely subjective. Some spaces may energize one person and frustrate another. However, as we carefully craft our projects, we can make opportunities for people to engage most of their senses. When they touch a handrail or other curious surface, it creates a response (smooth, rough, cold, warm). When we introduce water or other calming features, the sound can create a memory of what one was doing or thinking at that moment. Visual qualities can certainly create an emotional response with color, texture, light/shadow and form. The emotional response does not need to be profound, just a response. Was the person happy or feel pleasant is one response. Did it elicit curiosity? Or simply, does a space help one to focus on learning or lift their emotions to aid in their healing. Big box retail stores (debatably architecture) through the cacophony of sight and sound cause me to be frustrated, sometimes angry and want to leave…an emotional response.

  2. I hoped you might speak about the proportions of the space itself – height to width to depth. The relationships of the different parts of the massing, the voids and solids to each other and to the whole, the rhythms of the repetitive elements – not those things we introduce, but the physical creation itself.
    Please comment if you wish.

    1. That may be fodder for a new post. This post was more general as it documented my talk to high school students. I’ve started to read your blog; it is fascinating. Perhaps you are more equipped to answer that question.

      Also, there is a generation of architects today that are moving away from Vitruvian proportions and ideals using parametrics and computational tools to generate an entirely new mode of developing architecture and defining space. So it is difficult to address concisely.

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