Architecture is a state of mind. It may be argued that any built form presents a distinctive image to the user. The architectural lexicon for the masses is a unique story that is purely based on a personal response to the built environment around us. For some, this space starts from their bedroom and can go all the way to a massive skyscraper. It can be a personal response to enclosed corporate and commercial spaces or a perception of open green spaces. However, the question remains; how is the architectural vista around us affecting our daily lives and, on a deeper level, our thought process when it comes to viewing and even using public spaces? How is the perception of an architect any different from that of a common person? What are the commonalities we share as potential users that make these built spaces an almost tangible resource for us to use?

Analyzing the Architectural Lexicon of today - Sheet1
Nordic state of mind_©Larz gitz architects

The Sense of Space- What Defines it? 

To better grasp how different architectural vistas affect different people, we need to understand that we, as users, contribute towards the general understanding of spaces. As suggested by Jane Jacobs in her infamous work of Death and Life of Great American Cities, ‘…there must be eyes on the street’. This implies that public spaces and the way they are designed for the public to use deeply impact the architectural lexicon of the masses with regards to the tangible and even intangible perceptions of space and how this ultimately has the authority to change one’s surrounding completely. These very “eyes” which Jane Jacob speaks of are responsible for how different people view different spaces. There are several examples that we can relate to as individuals daily; for instance, as an ordinary person visiting the same marketplace for our daily groceries, one would perhaps have memorized the sense of space that the marketplace would offer to us, thereby creating a sense of purpose in our daily task. The bumpy road that might lead to the marketplace and the sparse landscape surrounding the concrete jungle where the shops are located all creates a sense of functionality for the users. 

The Concrete Jungle versus Green Spaces- How is their Impact different on Users? 

Living in a city where people have likened to the fast pace of life, the ruthless sound of unending traffic jams, and a diverse architectural vista, the public behavioural pattern is reflective of the physical surroundings. Analyzing the architectural lexicon of the user when it comes to using spaces that are indicative of massive scale and statements that can be seen in the city, one sees that almost every moment of the user’s daily life is affected by this concrete jungle they live in. The narrow city streets filled with signage, the hustle and bustle of the public joints such as restaurants on the street, vendors selling juice and sodas all create a sense of admirable confusion. It is interesting to note that the dense urban fabric of the city reflects a variety of moods as well. Tight and enclosed spaces in the city streets can create a sense of urgency and panic in the user with little or no social distancing. The looming and monochromatic grey buildings in the city with their large scale can make the user feel overshadowed and perhaps even dreary.

Analyzing the Architectural Lexicon of today - Sheet2
Concrete jungle_©Newman

In contrast to this rather sullen concrete forest of an architectural vista, the scenario presented by open and green spaces away from the city redefines the grim architectural lexicon of the user. Landscaped spaces that pay close attention to the importance of bridging the ‘Green Gap’ that exists in metropolitan areas invoke a sense of ease in the users. These small green pockets that can be found within the city area give the users a sense of respite from their otherwise cutthroat routines, and moreover, give a perfect space to walk out of their offices and have their lunch or have a scintillating conversation over a cup of coffee. These spaces, due to the pandemic, have become vital for common people as areas of reprieve. These green spaces give the architectural lexicon of the users a healthy contrast to an otherwise enclosed version of their lives that they may associate with the perspective they have created regarding non-green spaces that envisage their minds. It is relevant to understand that green spaces provide a calmer, happier environment that has the potential to provide a setback to the mood disorders that are so prevalent in the society of today.

Analyzing the Architectural Lexicon of today - Sheet3
Chinese botanical gardens_©Khokhar

Tangible versus Intangible Spaces

Although it may be said that there is no conclusive way of categorizing how users- common and designers alike; may perceive architecture around them, however, it is very clear that architecture serves more than just a functional purpose for society. It has the power to shape how users wake up, interact with other people, and perhaps even sleep. The architectural lexicon of the user is subjective to their own perception of intangible space and how it translates into a quantifiable utility or feeling for them.

Display at GOMA_©Khokhar

References:

  1. Khokhar, S. (2016). Art Display at GOMA, Sydney. [Photograph]
  2. Khokhar, S. (2016). Chinese Botanical Gardens. [Photograph]
  3. Larz Gitz Architects. A Nordic State of Mind [Illustration].
  4. Newman, M. (2019). Concrete Jungle. [Photograph]
  5. Wekerle, G. (2000). From eyes on the street to safe cities (Jane Jacob’s book, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities). Research Gate. 
Author

Sidra is an aspiring architect who is deeply fascinated by the influence of architectural writing on the designing capabilities of future architects within the creative industry. She has a particular interest in Landscape Architecture and seeks to investigate its remarkable potential within her motherland- Pakistan.

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