Bricks and Mortar – What is architecture? If you had asked me this question 10 years ago after I had just finished reading my very first issue of Architectural Digest and scrolled through pictures of the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre designed by Zaha Hadid,

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I’d tell you something about the points of how architecture is about more engaging, oddly shaped, curvy, less boxy, bigger, mind-boggling, jaw-dropping, tear-jerking, Frank Gehry Esque buildings because why not. When you show a kid something big and shiny, everything should be big and shiny. What kind of world would we live in without big and shiny things? Oh the humanity, the insanity. What kind of uncivilized civilization lacks big and shiny things? Incomprehensible.

Not all countries have a rich architectural heritage. When you grow up in a community that treats houses as just blocks of concrete, bricks and mortar to hide in when it rains or when the sun gets too hot, the Guggenheim Museum and St Stephen’s Basilica look like bigger, shinier blocks of concrete to hide when it rains or when the sun gets too hot. Kids that want to design want to do so because they saw something cool online or in a magazine and though it may not have been what they thought it was, what was important was that it made them curious. The idea that something could be more than it is. That there’s this whole new unexplored part of the world that they haven’t touched. It was the same feeling I got when I saw the Budapest Parliament in person for the first time. 

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How I wished my camera could see what my eyes were seeing! If you were to ask me what architecture was at that moment, I’d tell you it was a feeling.

In architecture school, I learned quite a lot about architecture (well duh). I realised that big and shiny buildings are very expensive and even if you have the finances to make them, the world doesn’t need another big and shiny building though when you do ask yourself why you should care what the world thinks, you’ll sooner or later realise that as an architect, not only do you have a social responsibility but a global one as well to do your best to minimise the carbon emissions in the construction industry thus reducing the C02 emissions into the atmosphere hence saving the world. Yes, that’s right, as an architect, you’re a superhero and as cheesy as that sounds, you have a responsibility to save the lives of not only the people that will use your building but those that will see it through a magazine and hope to make curvy buildings like you one day.

There are multiple scenarios under which a building will be used and as an architect, it is our responsibility to think of as many of these scenarios as possible and see how our design faces off against each of these challenges. Children need morning sunlight, the living room needs passive heat, you’ll come home dying to use the bathroom and it should be in reach, too many groceries in the car, and how lovely would it be if the kitchen had a backdoor, a pandemic that might leave you locked in your room for the whole year so how do you make someone’s room a place where they wouldn’t mind getting locked in without severe mental health side effects. What will this person do? What will affect them? What is going to happen in the world and how would they cope with it? How can you as an architect create a space for them to solve every challenge that’s going to come their way? If you have severe anxiety and can’t stop thinking of the worst-case scenarios, then architecture might just be the career choice for you. 

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I had never realized how much thought went into making these bricks and mortar concrete blocks and the more people got themselves into trouble, the more they had to think about how to minimize the chances of getting into trouble. Architecture showed me that a building is more than the building materials it’s made of and more so the people that will use, stare, adore or even insult it. Architecture is as complicated as the people that make it and maybe in making it so, we find a little bit of ourselves in this whole mess of bricks and mortar.

What is Architecture now? If there was a single answer, I would have ended this in the first paragraph. Architecture is the culmination of a plethora of factors reflecting a different response to whoever looks at it long enough to see something. It’s not that the answers kids give you are wrong but rather, they can’t find the words to express how they feel. Well, how could they even when this big bearded fellow struggles to express what’s in his heart because he’s too overwhelmed by a concrete block to speak clearly? The less I knew the more I spoke, the more I knew the less I could speak. When we don’t know that we don’t know, we tend to fill the gaps with assumptions that we know and that might give us the impression that we do know but when we know that we don’t know, we realise the flaws of our assumptions and our inability to fill the gaps that we don’t know. If that was confusing, go through it a few more times. All we can do is let ourselves feel whatever we’re feeling and let this realisation guide us toward the answers.

 I’m not sure enough to say my perspective has changed over time completely. I’ve just found words here and there to let me know how I feel about this field but every day I learn something new. I’m coming to terms with not knowing and quite enjoying it. Hopefully one day I’ll write a book about my confusion but today I’ll just give you a few words about my opinion.