What is architecture?
Is it a carefully designed structure? Or is it a mere intersection between an engineered construct and a piece of art?
Or is there a fourth dimension to architecture? If so, can we define it?
Bruno Zevi, in her book Architecture of Space, explains that all of the techniques of representation and all of the paths to architecture that do not include direct experience are pedagogically useful, practical, and intellectually fruitful. However, their function is only allusive and preparatory to that moment when we, with everything in us that is physical, spiritual, and, above all, human, enter and experience the spaces we have been studying. That is what she describes as the Moment of Architecture.
The Timelessness in Architecture
By virtue of various elements, many outstanding works of architecture are universally regarded to have a timeless aspect by different groups of people. Because the term contains such a vast spectrum of notions and meanings, there are many different ways to comprehend it. We may infer that timeless architecture refers to architecture that has stood the test of time, whose aesthetic elements are lasting, and whose size, proportions, forms, and function are suited to bodily and spiritual demands of a human being, as well as the context of the site.
It is worth mentioning that the passage of time is linked to change processes that occur both in the natural world and in the realms of culture and art. Objects of architecture, which are an integral part of cultural activity and civilization, go through changes such as rebuilding, transformation, regeneration, while on the other hand there is degradation, destruction, and complete annihilation. Biological time is not just the cause of architectural decay. Changes in architecture are also caused by evolving functional, spatial, and aesthetic requirements. How then does architecture become timeless?
Intriguingly, designers, artists, and architects appear to have always aspired to create something memorable, iconic, everlasting, legendary, exceptional, and profound, and all of these words seem to coincide with our shared understanding of what is considered timeless. Maybe it is one of them or all of them, or probably it is none of them.
The Architectural Moment
The essence of Architecture is nothing less than the preservation of human experience. For the spectator, the casual stance may announce the acme of architecture. Direct contact with the walls or gazing through windows—the thoughtless times when the physical space is overlooked might be when we get the most direct experience with it. Our interaction with the elements impacts our perception of space, and we can only define it via those objects. Moreover, the details express what the basic idea of the design requires at the relevant point in the object: belonging or separation, tension or lightness, solidity or fragility (P. Zumthor, 2010). This transition between the object and the static character of architecture may be aggravated at this very moment tending the space to be timeless.
This static nature is significant in architecture because, at the end of the day, the notion we develop as an architect may be lost on those who examine our work. Within that work, the individual can see what they desire. Even though we may have a concept, to guide the project through the design process, not everyone will perceive the project in the same way that the designer did at the time it was created. It is in identifying such particular patterns of concepts, events, and meanings associated with a building or location that a perfect balance between the subject and object of experience is found. This initiated interaction between the constructed and the ever-evolving reality is what creates The Architectural Moment.
“The intensity of a brief experience, the feeling of being utterly suspended in time, beyond past and future – this belongs to many, perhaps even to all sensations of beauty. The flow of time has been halted; experience crystallized into an image whose beauty seems to indicate depth. While the feeling lasts, I have an inkling of the essence of things, of their most universal properties. I now suspect that these lie beyond any categories of thought.”
(P. Zumthor, 2010)
As for a living being, there is a fundamental quality, the root criterion of life and spirit, which is objective and precise, yet no name has ever been assigned to it. The search for this quality in our own life is the core search of any individual and it is the search for such moments and situations in which we feel alive. The quest for this underlying character in a building captures the phenomenon of time and space in mutual isolation and is indicative of the link between time and architecture firmly rooted in the human aspect. Conclusively, since nothing can outlive time, the notion of timeless architecture emerges through the collection of architectural moments inside the spaces in a building or a town. The concept of these architectural moments is what enhances the human experience and demonstrates how architecture interacts with its surroundings to build a timeless memory.
- Zevi, B. (1974). Architecture as space. Horizon Press.
- Zumthor, P. (2010). Thinking architecture. Basel: Birkhäuser.