why do we like buildings so much?

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I put a non-architectural friend (yes we do have those, although at times it feels like they are a dying breed) on the spot and asked her if she had any questions about the course, the profession or such and she just wanted to know, “I just don’t understand why you guys like buildings so much!” I’ll be writing up a quick post just to explain and hopefully make her better understand why we like buildings, and hopefully I don’t sound pretentious or stuck up.

It’s ironic her question, she was probably inside a building when she asked that, I know I was. Those of you reading this, probably within the confines of walls, roofs and a floor? The buildings around us help shape our lives, they can make us awe-struck, they can make for a pleasant meal, a bearable doctor’s appointment, an inspiring learning space or even the simple act of calling it home. Many of our most memorable moments are stored within the walls of buildings, from being born, to graduating, weddings and funerals, to even telling a work colleague you’re going to be a dad or opening Christmas presents with your children.

Buildings help to define cities, create meeting places and assist with finding our way. “Meet me under the clocks“, everyone with a connection with Melbourne would understand the meaning behind such a simple phrase, yet without a building, well sorry, without an amazing building, that phrase would not exist.

Yes we have crap buildings, I’m not going to pretend we don’t, but those truly beautiful buildings make up for it. When you touch the brick work, see the light filtering through the windows with screens casting shadows, the strength expressed in exposed concrete or the little moments you notice in a building. You may notice a shimmer of light between the wall and roof (which is deliberate, not a construction fault), or perhaps the acoustics in a large space where even when at the back you can hear the soft spoken speaker clear as day.

It’s easy to see buildings as four walls, a roof and a floor, and nothing else. However, if you stop and think about these buildings, how were these built? Look at the ancient buildings, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Parthenon or the Colosseum, human beings built these amazing structures. Granted many were slaves, and these buildings have withstood the test of time, but how could someone look at these buildings with a mere “How can you like these so much?“. Even more modern buildings, even with the introduction of machinery, there is still a lot of man and woman-power involved from pouring the concrete, laying the bricks, installing the steel or erecting the roof, there is still a human behind all of this.

I can’t speak for all architecture students, but they are merely some of the reasons why I like buildings so much. The light, the texture, the presence, the spaces, and of course having a sense of place. For me it goes beyond the simple need for shelter (which in it’s most simplistic form, that is the function of a building), and starts to involve emotion and memories.

I put it to you now, why do you like buildings so much?

 

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