Every story is brought to light by its audience, who does architecture bring in as its audience? Being a discipline, which is highly collaborative from where it begins as an idea to how it sits with its users, the idea behind architecture is to make the world better than it is in. 

The Tale of Architecture - Sheet1
Storytelling- Roberts.E., (2016)_©Transition Town Totnes

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us”, Winston Churchill.

Where we are today is a mere reflection of where we were and even perhaps a glimpse into where we will be. How does one go on to understand the present context of a living story in concrete out of its timeline? Where does it then leave the architect? The projection of a piece of architecture into the future whilst also accommodating all it must go through from its birth, now that is a story worth telling. Regardless of however small the story might be, the influence it has on the lives of the people who experience it is surely otherwise. 

Memories from Materials

We all have places we are attached to, be it the house of our childhood, that first flat with mates, the first home you purchase, the park around the corner with your secret spot, that makes us nostalgic and bridging a connection. What the architecture tells us becomes a part of what we are, and then, in turn, its impact on our lives leaves a story to be added, to what was nothing more than a box with four walls to be put so crudely. The story of architecture lives on, changing with time, evolving with emotion and memory, making architecture, in my opinion, just maybe one of the greatest narratives the world has seen. How often do we get to tell a tale, live a tale that spans across generations, and yet have something different? To astound its viewers or to provide its users with comfort, architecture has always had its own stories to tell even before its language of expression came into existence. 

Benign Beginnings

Every story that has a beginning has an ending, and the same goes with architecture. It starts as lines on a piece of paper, black, white, or color, forming the skeleton of what makes it stand out from the rest, hoping to be a great story, looking to be understood. The stories we tell often though based on reality, are the ones we wished to live. What stories do the buildings in concrete tell? Or does the story lie in what it hides? 

“Even a brick wants to be something”, Louis Khan.

Our different perception of the same thing is what makes us unique, does that mean the intentions by which architecture was built goes dissected in a million different ways and is never understood as intended by the designer unless spelled in words? Is this then the flipside of architecture? If everything has two sides, what side does the power of impact come from? 

The Tale of Architecture - Sheet2
Two Sides To Every Story Painting, UK_©Langthorne. L (2018)

Architecture like any form of art leaves room for interpretation to the people it surrounds and those who come in contact. If the outline narrative of architecture is the designers, location (Wallace, 2007), and users, it gets its depth from site interaction, materiality, and style. The juxtaposed nature of architecture with all its complexities leaves a humbling experience, based on emotions, memory, and nostalgia (Bond, 2021). 

Power of Perception and Perceptions

To dwell more on the ‘flip’ side of any form of creativity is evidenced by the fact that those who practice it are inclined to have their struggles. If the misinterpretation of architecture weighs on one side, the other side holds the power to create or destroy. Regardless of their intentions, architects (Le Corbusier, Zaha Hadid), a lot of famous ones at that, do not understand the way they intended their architecture to be (Buchanan, 1987 and Frearson, 2016). Throughout the history of architecture, even movements and styles like deconstructivism stand to be obscure to most of the world (Stouhi, 2018). Although a lot of these misconceptions are cleared beyond their time, it leaves one to wonder the importance of having a narrative to the visual communication that architecture provides. 

New York TImes Archives_©Hall, K.R. (1984)

The End

Reinforcing the significance of having to ‘tell the tale’ that influences the perception of people and the impact of architecture on human life. As much as a hold architecture has on its spectators, it weighs the same when turned around to architecture. Aspects of social sustainability, consideration of humans in design, molds architecture to become its own audience bringing together people designing for people, making the communication be it visual or verbal to enhance the creation, rather than defining it. The narrative of any story regardless of how it is interpreted always gives the creator the power of direction. Architecture in the same way is the collective experience carefully orchestrated by the designer to have a lasting impression. What makes it great, is to have that experience as widely the same area of consciousness for the people that stumble across it by choice or otherwise. After all, we are looking to understand and connect with what’s around us, even architecture.

References:

  1. Bond, M. (2021). The hidden ways that architecture affects how you feelBbc.com. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170605-the-psychology-behind-your-citys-design [Accessed: 7 August 2021].
  2. Buchanan, P. et al. (1987). Corb87: Master of a misunderstood modernism – Architectural Review, Architectural Review. Available at: https://www.architectural-review.com/archive/corb87-master-of-a-misunderstood-modernism [Accessed: 7 August 2021].
  3. Frearson, A. (2016). Zaha Hadid: I’m “widely misunderstood” by the mainstream, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2016/02/03/architecture-not-medium-personal-expression-for-me-zaha-hadid-riba-royal-gold-medal-2016/ [Accessed: 6 August 2021].
  4. Stouhi, D. (2018) What is Deconstructivism? ArchDaily, Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/899645/what-is-deconstructivism (Accessed: 7 August 2021).
  5. Wallace, C.N (2007). Storytelling Through Architecture (Chancellor’s Honors Program Projects. https://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_chanhonoproj/1129 
Author

Keerthi Priya Ramineni, currently lives in Australia, having finished her master’s degree in Architecture she's finding a way to combine the passion she has for words and her interest in architecture.

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