Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Defining architecture ... so far

By PLACE Volunteer Eve Russell (Stage II BSc Architecture Student)

It is a long asked question by the public, architecture students and even architects themselves as to what architecture is. Something that is designed by trained professionals, critiqued by the experts and non-experts and experienced by everyone. It is accessible in its physical qualities, yet the concepts and form of the building may often only be visible to the trained eye. Architecture spans beyond its built state, it attempts to stand out, blend in, and work for the client, the user and the designer. It is an entity of controversy and unity; people are divided and brought together through the built environment that is architecture.

While dictionaries attempt to define architecture as: 
“the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings. The style in which a building is designed or constructed, especially with regard to a specific period, place or culture.”
(Oxford English Dictionary 2012)

Art Gallery, Berlin. A space unoccupied by people.
Photo by Eve Russell.

I feel that it is something that stretches beyond a dictionary definition, in many ways architecture is indefinable, while the product itself has physical boundaries, the ideas, atmosphere and impact upon people socially, economically and psychologically can be infinite. It plays with scale, the necessity to work your way up in scale, from the greater context to the immediate context, to the building itself and the spaces it creates.

Architecture predominantly centres itself around the difference between a space and place. This really defines what architecture is in my opinion. The main difference between a space and place is people. A space is a created area, a defined area, an area with the potential to be used and explored. However, a place is somewhere used, with purpose and occupied. It has a user, and has gained purpose in its design, through its use it has been developed and explored; it has improved as a functional space.

The MAC, Belfast. A space occupied by people.
Photo by Eve Russell.
So, while I am an architecture student still exploring the answer to that question from friends, lecturers, and the public...what is architecture? I am drawing the conclusion that it is a journey. It is a journey for the architect, client, user and building. The architect ventures on a journey to achieve a building; the client embarks on a journey to achieve their aims; the user experiences the journey through the building and its interior and exterior impact; and the building?... it provides the journey itself, yet it comes on a journey with the architect through design development and changes, some are driven forward and some are left behind. Many buildings with potential have not yet been constructed, or have been discarded within the early stages of a project. It is bizarre to think that after a world full of buildings and designed spaces that there are still new experiences to have in buildings, that there are more and more designs coming through, therefore, the journey of architecture continues...

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