A friend of mine was beginning to teach a new architecture class at one of the local universities and he wanted to get the new kids thinking about architecture and what it could mean to them. They were new architecture students and were probably the type of people who didn't really know or understand the definition of architecture yet. From my perspective, it's a difficult thing to define if you haven't really thought about it. No, it's not "buildings".
He asked a few of us at the office who are passionate about the profession to give their points-of-view. It's a hard thing to define even for me, and I wonder if I might have given a different answer if it were asked on a different day.
"What does architecture mean to you?"
Architecture is a dichotomy in so many ways. It is where we spend the most personal and private part of our lives, and it is also the framework within which we all live and work in the public part of our lives. It is something we all participate in every day and yet is something many (most?) rarely notice. Architecture lies at the intersection of art and science. It brings together primal needs and high tech. It grounds us on the planet and often defies gravity. It is a huge, intricate, advanced thing that is still mostly built by hand. Perhaps the strangest part of our interaction with the built environment is what can be so evocative and meaningful for one person can mean absolutely nothing to someone else.
The process of architecture is not for the passive. It requires a passionate involvement and commitment to bring out creative solutions to complex issues. Architects are poised to solve many of the world's biggest problems, and we do so willingly. We are problem solvers by definition. Working with others (listening, exploring, creating, struggling, thinking, asking, etc.) and collaborating on solutions to these problems is the biggest workout your brain will ever get. The more I do it, the stronger it gets. It feels good and right, and I probably wouldn't want to do anything else.
When we as architects work on something we always try to reach that extra level… trying to achieve soul or depth. This is part of what separates architecture from buildings. In every project there is this inseparable combination of function and aesthetics; of function and emotion. It should make our lives better. Architecture has the potential to address form, tectonics, craft, color, light, texture, sound, reflection and shadow. It must achieve a provocative relationship between simplicity and complexity. It must access the unconscious... and that is maybe what architecture is all about.
So... I'd like to know: what does architecture mean to you? Write it down and post it for others to read. Leave your thoughts or a link in the comments.