moment it becomes architecture


My absence from regular posts is regrettably a casualty of a busy summer schedule. However, the good result is work is moving towards getting built and other projects are nearing in the struggle to reach that level.

Needless to say, this has caused me to think about a familiar argument of what defines architecture – or better yet at what point does something become architecture.

Although I wrote about this years ago , far be it from me to define architecture and far be it from me to define (or limit) what is not. Yet as I was leaving a project team meeting last week for a project that just received a building permit and is slated to begin construction in less than two weeks, something struck me. This project is no longer an idea, an intangible concept of how one might add onto their home. It will become real. They will live in it.

Does that make it architecture or merely a building? I’ll leave that for others to judge. Personally, it’s architecture to me. Once we break ground, I’ll post images.

(this is not the project…this is just hypothetical paper architecture…past ideas of mine)

Now once this project is built we can debate and enjoy the discourse of whether this project is “Architecture” or not. However, what clinched it for me was something beyond the esoteric dialogue and philosophical rhetoric commonly found on this topic. It was the simple fact that I contributed to a process where someone chose to invest time, money and emotion into building something. They will spend what is a lot of money to them to build something that I designed.

Don’t underestimate this.

Architects for years have debated the definition of architecture and accepted that their ideas and workings on paper (and digital representations today) were in fact Architecture regardless of whether they were built. I’m not committing to an either/or foundation for my argument. I’m purposely avoiding committing to whether un-built ideas and plans are in fact architecture (big A or little a).

Yet I sincerely question whether ideas alone are sufficient.

(is anything on this desk architecture…yet?)

Architects express their thoughts and opinions of this life in the form of architectural representations. Those are architectural ideas. An architect might persuade a client to invest significant dollars on fees and spend time to develop concepts for a structure. However, this investment pales in comparison to the real investment it takes to actually build something.

Once one commits to building a project, the ideas will be judged, the documents will be tested and an intangible will find realization in physical space. Many people will get involved, trucks will deliver real materials, dirt will be moved and the client’s life will be changed. It will be a permanent mark for anyone to judge rather than simply exist on paper or gigabytes. It moves far beyond the quality of the idea to where the physical reality is what is tried in history’s court.

A physical structure is not automatically Architecture in my book, but due to my reasoning above, is it far closer?

Screenshot 2015-08-23 20.05.28

Agree? Disagree? You should know by now I love swimming in the questions far more than answers. Feel free to share opposing point of views or clarifying agreement to today’s thesis.

Last week’s moment was good; a good moment when my ideas are set to become architecture.

moment it becomes architecture

6 thoughts on “moment it becomes architecture

  1. Interesting thoughts here. It’s a difficult thought experiment – what separates a drawing of a building from an architectural design? Thanks for sharing your insight on this.

  2. This is a topic that had been on my mind recently as well. Though i succumbed to the more esoteric approach to it. While i am not sure i can fully agree with you on this one, i do appreciate how you take a more grounded approach to the topic.

    I would want to proffer that the moment of becoming architecture happens when you (the architect) get involved in the project. When you bring your wealth of knowledge, skill, and expertise to bear on the problem. Not when it moves from paper to building.

    1. The reason I love this medium is everyone brings different perspectives. I am not committing to unbuilt works not being architecture…yet. I’m obviously an advocate for architects. However, that too is no guarantee based on some things architects have spit out. My goal wasn’t to be all inclusive, but after this one meeting recently, it struck me that there was something powerful about leading a client carefully to where they’re ready to write a check to build something…something good I hope. Thanks. I always respect and appreciate your contributions to this ongoing conversation.

      1. You bring up a good point that involving an architect does not necessarily guarantee architecture as the result. And the power and responsibility that comes with taking a client to the point of spending a lot of money is not to be taken lightly.

        It occurs to me, as i struggle to craft this reply, that there is a presupposed inherent goodness in architecture. That there cannot be bad architecture. Because the “badness” would preclude it from being architecture. That too, would be an interesting topic to delve into.

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