Architect of the Young

A Professional Narrative

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    Vincent DeFazio
    Mar 19, '15 4:09 PM EST

    Architecture isn't about buildings.  Capital (A)rchitecture isn't about the masonry, heavy timber, board-formed concrete spaces that envelope and dazzle us.  Architecture is about experience.  Experiences that are visceral and moving, providing a platform for an emotional response by those lucky enough to inhabit or interact with the space.  What architecture really boils down to is the facilitation of encounters, interactions, emotions and a multitude of other things that combine to create an endeavor that befuddles even the most stubborn of users. Architecture is not buildings, it is the fostering of experiences that occur within its spaces.

    It can be rather hard to convey that such concrete realities are not so much about the sum of the parts as they are the voids - the difference of all of the physical representations of Architecture.  Whatever may happen within the confines of any given space is what is truly important - functionality and processional experiences.  The designer must thoroughly think through how a user will feel when maneuvering through spaces, how they will interact with different elements along a given route.  It is the careful coordination of the occurrences that take place throughout a 'journey' through a building and their relations to both the rational and intangible that create a successful piece of Architecture.  While geometric forays and aesthetic improvements may be what visually stimulates us, the depth of a building comes only with the richness of the void.  The moments that occur through the narrative that is Architecture.  


    Spatial design becomes the most powerful is when it celebrates certain moments through a procession.  Whether these moments be tiny and sporadic or ubiquitous or functional, they create certain points through a building that highlight experiential encounters. A space that creates an escape from the banalities of everyday life can uplift and create positive emotions in those that engage it, whereas generic and poorly planned confines can encourage negativity and scant response pushing us to look back down at our smartphone screens ignoring our bland contexts.  The tiniest details of design for a space can have the most profound effects on those using it, humans can be awestruck by the grandeur but are appreciative and alert to the tinier components that create the voids we inhabit. Perhaps the most intrinsic part of designing for moments is to wholeheartedly understand the users that will exist within - their desires, their needs and their simple aesthetic appeals (catch them with the visual, hold them with the emotion). Moments in design are only as powerful as their perception, and to capture the attention of inhabitants within a space, the architect must fully understand what moves them. What is the best common denominator to speak to a specific 'audience'? Moments usually aren't as grandeur in scale and exhibition, rather microorganisms within the larger confines of an entire body.  Effective planning and understanding the users' movement is paramount.

    Any moment during the course of a procession through a series of spaces could be disregarded at that time only to be recalled later.  Visceral and deep emotions can take much longer to emerge due to their complexities.  Most of the time, the designs that are appreciated at a given moment in time through are perceived through a  fragmented memory that triggers some type of response, these types of spaces tend to be relatable and somewhat typical calling upon typological-based memories. When spaces are powerful and create equally powerful experiences, the localized celebration in the user isn't realized until after the actual occurrence.  Think to most of your most beloved memories, how many of those did you stop at that given point in time and say 'I will remember this foreveror 'this is the best moment of my life'?  These visceral moments that occur within architecture are much of the same; it may take some time to sink in, but when it does the memory and the emotions will forever be burned into the inhabitant's memory.    


    A building can be understood as a manifestation of another tangible; a book.  A series of rooms (pages) that all tell a part of the whole.  These individual components alone may be fairly insubstantial, however when experienced as a whole (through memory), the entirety begins to make sense and show fluidity. Marco Frascari believed in this premise taking detail components and utilizing their effects in both macro and micro encounters to create an experience or an emotional response.  Much is the way a building becomes a narrative of sorts, allowing users to page through its spaces telling a story that you won't quite understand until you've gone all the way through. The vehicle for telling stories - a book - is much like the vehicle for experiencing space - Architecture.

    Buildings are never experienced through plan, section or elevation.  This is the way in which architects configure and organize their thoughts into rational (sic) experiences for the masses to experience.  Rather than these two-dimensional representations, they are felt through movement, encountered through tactile engagements with concrete elements and their created voids.  Thinking of a building as a story or series of stories helps clarify the way our users will feel in the space once it becomes a reality.  The same way a book is a physical object where the created experiences are based on perception (void), a building is the vehicle to tell a narrative that will be perceived.  The true bulk of what's important in both a book and a building can never be seen - the experience.  The most meaningful elements of both are intangible, a juxtaposition to each of their strongly tangible existences.        

    It's hard to substantiate statements that remove architecture from being a reality. Experiences that occur within the spaces created by an architect really define a building more than anything.  Whether the criteria for said spaces boils down to functionality, experience or both - it is at the humanistic and emotional level that we see architecture have its greatest impact.  The most important element in a building are the people who use it, without their activation of the spaces we create there is no true beauty in a building.  A stagnant building quickly loses whatever geometric charm is may have - people are what really make spaces beautiful just as people make a story come alive in their own heads.  Designers will never be able to fully anticipate the ways their spaces will influence everybody, however much like an artist or author they can utilize different tools and techniques to infer their language and significance.  What makes a book, a building or a piece of art really amazing is the ways in which those respected audiences perceive these works and create their own narrative likely to be different than everybody else's visions.     

    Celebrating even the tiniest of moments in the otherwise banal spaces can still provide an experience that removes an inhabitant even for just a moment.  So instead of just thinking through the concrete realities with an architect, ensure that the spaces being manifested also feel right.  The moments become a narrative that intertwines users through a building creating emotional repertoire and enhanced perception.  This perception may interpret the physical existences in a space, but what is really felt is the result of these practicalities' presence, the presence of nothing and everything.   Architecture has and always will be more about what really is not physically present; Architecture really is the design of voids. 

    Now, would you like to buy a bottle of air?

    This post originally from DEFdesign.

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About this Blog

As architecture continues to lose members, it's ever-important to empower and give voices to those young designers in the field. This blog does exactly just that, seeking a powerful young voice among those with many more years in the profession.

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