Which building do you like?

If there is no ‘building’, there is no architecture.

I beg to differ. Architecture can exists without being a ‘building’.

I saw a tweet from a famous and popular site, an internet magazine on architecture. The tweet asked its followers: which building do you like in 2017? I was reminded of architectural historians, like Pevsner who said that there is a difference between ‘building’ and ‘architecture’. On another note, I shall discuss about this topic in ADEPT-UM, on how we teach students to differentiate between them or not, but here in a general discussion on design, there is a problem in that tweet.

It is always a ‘building’ when we discuss about architecture. Not a ‘space’, not a ‘function’, not an ‘experience’. Whether the experience is a satisfactory one, whether we feel at ease and one with the ‘enclosure’. It is always a ‘building’. What is the difference between architects and building surveyors?

I suspect it is easier to just refer to ‘building’ and focus on the thing that stuck out with elevations with a roof, laboriously done on sketch pad and transmitted to a scheme to be worked out further into a set of drawings for the contractor to be build. Again, I ask of the difference between architects and building surveyors. This centuries-old approach from the Beaux Arts period still control the way we see things and trained as an architect. The whole of the profession is focused on the ‘building’. Take the ‘building’ away and you take the profession away, so to speak.

Where do we go from this approach? Many ways actually…and of course the clue is in the word ‘context’. Before we go any further, this is not about choosing one approach above the other, or being a less commercial-minded architect. This is about the desire to create and anticipate a variety of reasons and aspects that makes the experience of architecture and the environment as an inspirational space (not just a building).

I think Huat and Susanne (ZLG) talked about this as well in person and by the projects they build. But I wish to totally give the decision and final say not to the architect and designer but the user (which is why I would differ with Huat and Susanne).

Any user. A child, a teenager, a man or woman in their 30s, middle-aged persons, elderly persons…but these are not categories.What are words but just to depict and to categorise for ease of use for the masses. People have different background and experiences of previous forays and wanderings into other architecture and environment before. And people are not a figure stuck in a 3-dimensional model. There are many more dimensions and layers of feelings and needs to a person.

Architecture is a very qualitative and personal journey and experience for a person that it is impossible to customise and please everyone who experiences it. In the end, standardisation overtakes precedence of design thought and everything is left to computers to think about the design. Do not blame the client or commercialisation. But ourselves, if we just let it be ‘buildings’ rather than ‘architecture’.


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