It is almost always evident that there is a big divide between the point of view of an insider in a particular profession and just a regular person who happens to have little or no knowledge about that profession.
From an architectural perspective, this is very true. Only those in the inner circle will be able to perceive and understand the intricacies of how the system works i.e. the interaction between spaces e.g. parks, community areas and forms e.g. skyscrapers.
Many people walk through their streets or urban spaces and stay inside buildings without careful consideration of the very components that make up their living and working spaces.
Architecture is a living entity. This is not in terms of super-cognitive organisms such as humans or animals per se which are more developed and possess emotions but in the similitude of plants, which scientifically possess all the characteristics of living things.
Based on a popular mnemonic for the characteristics of living things, this article will examine how one can see architecture through a new lens.
The ability to move is a feature that proves something is alive.
A person who views architecture beyond just an abstract thing will understand that architecture isn’t just about that static building seen standing on some parcel of land but also about the people who inhabit them.
This is why the perspective of an architecture-savvy individual leans towards the understanding that a building can either inhibit or facilitate the movement of the people and objects in them.
The way the spaces are organised and linked is what makes flow and movement better.
So, when one enters a building, does the building promote a sense of direction whereby there is no need to ask questions from anyone?
This sense of motion is what great architecture seeks to achieve, and those who can spot it early on have most likely had their awareness of this sharpened by studying and practising architecture.
Movement is important but it isn’t the only criteria by which architecture can be seen as a living thing. This is because even some non-living things move if the right amount of force propels them.
Respiration, in the architectural context, is what sustains the building in terms of exhalation of those unwanted gases and inhalation of the good life-giving air.
Once again, the focus is on the well-being of the users of the building.
This is why ventilation is a major concern in architecture. A building which has all its windows locked up can prove to be detrimental to the occupants’ health and can adversely affect their performance.
Even open public spaces can be evaluated based on their respiratory system of openings and location. Location comes into play when evaluating if the building is situated in a place with clean air or if it is crammed in a place where the air is barely breathable.
Now, this is one of the most difficult concepts of the lot in terms of perception of Architecture as a living thing. How can an inanimate thing be expected to sense and react to stimuli from the environment?
This is very possible.
The materials and components that make up the skin (outer layers like walls) and bones (structural system) of a building possess inherent qualities in them that make it possible for the building to be somewhat sensitive.
Take, for instance, metal. It expands under heat and contracts in cold conditions.
Wood, on the other hand, is sensitive to moisture.
Many materials are sensitive to the load and pressure of winds e.t.c.
A person with a better perspective of what architecture truly is will appreciate the fact that buildings are sensitive to environmental conditions, climate and to the way even the people in and around the buildings treat them.
A building can also take on the mood of the people in it, based on the purpose, function or activities that are done there.
Here, we consider the fact that architecture, to thrive, also needs to take in ‘food’. Anything that isn’t fed well and regularly will die of malnourishment or starvation.
What does Architecture feed on? You may ask.
The food of Architecture is the energy it consumes; the fuels that power it.
This is why most buildings and public spaces today are being designed in such a way that harnesses renewable energy.
Renewable energy is like a balanced diet to a building, while non-renewable energy is like junk food that might satisfy for a fleeting moment but, in the long run, does more harm than good.
There is a need for filtering the bad from the good in every living system. Sometimes, a living system gets clogged with unwanted waste generated by metabolic activities inside that system.
Buildings are expected to be designed in a way that allows the waste materials produced due to the activities carried out in them to be ejected properly. This could be human waste, waste products from materials and machinery used in buildings, or waste from energy sources.
This characteristic is very prominent in architecture. Like begets like. The architectural marvels of the present, while we like to think are born from novel and daring concepts, are oftentimes an offspring of pre-existing models.
In the far future, there is a high chance that the architects of that time will look back on present-day architecture and glean from the concepts and styles.
This is why we often see that most buildings in a particular region follow the same pattern.
As living things, buildings are expected to grow. This is why buildings usually are given provisions for future renovations and expansions.
It is also important to note that buildings do not just grow in terms of an increase in physical size, but also in terms of an increase in the ability to accommodate the very function for which it was designed or to accommodate multiple activities at the same time.
While this is one characteristic that some people shy away from, claiming it isn’t a characteristic of living things because living things cannot be dead, it is necessary to mention that this applies to architecture in the sense that buildings do grow old and die.
They eventually get abandoned or demolished.
They crumble and get dilapidated over time.
Sometimes natural disasters like tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other factors like war cause buildings to come to the end of their lives.
Whether or not the death is natural, the aforementioned reasons prove that buildings do die.
There is no singular way to view architecture. While some might not completely agree with the perspective outlined here, paying closer attention to architecture will certainly revolutionise the way one perceives and understands buildings, spaces and the interaction of the people in and around them.