A friend & I were discussing, today, the nature of architecture, & at what point does building become architecture. Is it beauty? this thing we so oft claim lies in the eye of the beholder. Is it functionality? as claimed by the Modern Masters: Form Follows Function, the injunction echoes in architecture school lecture halls everywhere.
Magazines publish carefully lit, thoughtfully framed photo-spreads of beautiful buildings. But few enter into serious critique of the day to day performance of the buildings discussed. We celebrate the image - but how can we not? most often it is the only way that we experience these buildings: via carefully selected images that are, crucially, two-dimensional records of something that is, in truth, four-dimensional (at the very least).
In the end, the most important part of architecture is often the least discussed - at least in public fora - that is the relation of space to use. If the spaces do not facilitate & enhance our activities - our lives, loves, work, rest, play, solitude & socialising - then it is merely a pretty, or at best, an interesting building. If it is beautiful but hinders or disrupts our activities, then it is no more than sculpture (although nor is it ‘less’, because sculpture is still a worthwhile endeavour). Whatever it is, it is not architecture.
Architecture combines the virtues of shelter (building) & art, adding humanity, wit & joy. The best architecture creates space for you to be yourself - just as hard as you can. For me, a house should be both cradle & platform. Both your nurturing retreat, where you may seek solace & solitude; & your solid ground, where you stand, where you go forth from & where you invite others to join you. It is you, your family, your life, as formed in sticks & stones, steel, glass & crinkly tin.