worlds of architecture


Recent personal events coupled with the loss of a well-known, hard to be ignored architect have made me ponder what I call worlds of architecture. These are the worlds of what could be, what should be and what are.

First of all, let’s all agree that there is always going to be Architecture and architecture and buildings.

It seems as architects we are somewhat guilty of belittling anything that’s not Architecture or at least disappointed that everything does not fall into this category. I’m equally guilty, but not as culpable as our beloved media. They egg us on with their seductive glossy covers.

As we look through time, we obviously see many works of architecture remain with us that we cherish. But in the panoply of structures that have been built throughout time, how is it any different years ago than it is today with respect to A or a?

I’m sure in the past, when someone set out to build something, enduring, unique or special architecture was not necessarily on their mind as much as surviving through the winter. Therefore, centuries later, it seems that the only thing that remains for star status are structures that were built to survive – large public works, cathedrals, temples and palaces and other primary government buildings that had the finances and intention on being forever-type structures. Does class A status belongs to them merely because those who commissioned them had the wherewithal to fund a structure that would survive? Or is it more than that? Does that mean that Architecture is only available to an elite group?


Even once cities were being organized in the past thousands of years, not everything that was constructed could have been constructed with the desire in mind of being an enduring work of architecture. Admittedly, that’s my conjecture (as I admit not to being an historian), but it seems rational that that is what took place.

Every little market house, every personal residence, or any other common structure could not have been anything more than the desire for shelter or a place to call home or a place to put your goats. Survival (or function) had to have been the primary motivator behind what they did. Artistry, craft and a sense of composition played into it as people were proud of their humble abodes and proud of their abilities to make with their hands with only the means at their disposal. I wish we could see what some of these were. The simplicity and humility involved may be mesmerizing more than a mile-high tower.

Now that we are enlightened by our Renaissance friends and more aware of the influences of the man-made on the natural, should we expect as architects that everything that is constructed for the purpose of shelter or function fall into Architecture?

I will admit that my own personal interests and goals are not merely to be a factory for structures as an effort to maintain a business. I don’t have an office full of mouths to feed demanding I take on every project, nor do I have the temperament or attention span to do that either. I like to think I’m more careful about building good relationships.

I don’t think we’ll ever convince everyone that every effort to stack rocks for shelter will be worthy of capital-A Architecture. I’m not sure we can convince everyone that it’s even architecture. We will still build mere buildings and most may not even care. On the other hand, can we become a bit less snotty and permit a few unexpected contestants into the club that have uncommon design traits despite minuscule budgets, plain geometry and humble settings? Can they be light on the earth but not qualify for a badge and still get in? I don’t see the magazines signing up for that one yet.

The question becomes what will you choose to participate in and what will you not? I will still endeavor to elevate everything I touch.

What if…just what if? It seems some were not afraid to ask. Think about that.


photo credit: Taiban via photopin (license)
photo credit: inside the priory.. via photopin (license)
photo credit: 1458 via photopin (license)

worlds of architecture

5 thoughts on “worlds of architecture

  1. dwmarc2014 says:

    Architecture is what is awarded by the AIA (or other peer groups around the world) and/or published in the press. Which is a pretty silly metric if you ask me. Architects who believe in progress, or think they contribute to progress, and like to gamble are rewarded by all the publicity. If this definition sounds cynical, I beg you to disprove it. This definition helps explain why Architects are often perceived as Elitist.

  2. Bob Moore says:

    After reading your article this morning and at lunch perusing the newly delivered RECORD HOUSES it stuck me that only one residence gave a construction cost. In an era that one of the greatest needs that mankind has is affordable housing(or housing period) we have become a profession of ” If you have to ask you can’t afford it” .

  3. Great stuff Lee. After thinking about it, my belief says there is no difference between “Architecture” and “architecture.” Either can be great, no matter how small the budget, humble the setting, or plain the geometry. What is different is that which distinguishes “Architects” from “architects.” Greatness belongs to those who endeavor to elevate everything they touch.

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