Architectural education has helped us evolve by changing the way we behold buildings. It has broadened our minds to open up to nouvelle perspectives. Perspective comes into play when the two perpendicular lines of choosing ‘what to see’ and changing ‘how we see’ coincide at the right angle. For many of us, architecture has been a choice of this play, and a shift in perspective has been the change that followed it. This change has impacted our architectural mental health, similar to the post-Covid world. Going back on memory lane to some days of the pre-architecture world, the perception of architecture was dominated by sight. Exploration of a building was one in which we unconsciously walked through built spaces without an intellectual understanding of its value, function, design existence, and geometry.
As users, the one connection we had with buildings was the visual experience and the excitement it evoked. More attention was given to aspects that added to building aesthetics. More significant, brighter, and well-decorated spaces seemed more attractive. Through the course of architectural education, one began to think about the non-visual architectural aspects of a space and its substance. The understanding that there was more to a building than just its visual character came then. Even smaller spaces delivered deeper architectural meanings.
Skyscrapers | Perspective shift
Early skyscrapers emerged in Chicago and New York during the 9th century. There were days when the sky, horizon, and greenspaces were only considered the best views from buildings. Gone are those days!
After the Second World War, the emergence of skyscrapers changed this image by creating skylines. The breakthrough in the mass manufacture of steel and concrete and the introduction of passenger elevators during the industrial revolution opened the door for architects to design taller structures. The first skyscraper, relatively small by current standards, was built in Chicago to solve rising land rates in urban areas. They marked the culmination of architecture and construction in urban development.
Even today’s movies portray highly developed countries as the ones with high buildings and skylines. Back then and today, skyscrapers have been a powerful symbolic reflection of the country’s economic growth, political power, social infrastructure, construction technology, and sky-high ambitions. Skyscrapers have a history of representing the architectural styles of the era through materials, form, and function.
Haaretz Esther Zandberg wrote about Dubai as “The world record holder in illusionary height”. Considering Dubai, the home to many tall buildings in the world, let’s peek into the architectural significance of skyscrapers in Dubai’s downtown.
Dubai’s city centre has been the place of birth of futuristic skyscrapers. Excellent infrastructure has been one of the reasons for Dubai being a truly global trade centre and one of the most visited countries by tourists. Skyscrapers are integrally connected with the city’s growth in a developing urban environment. The compositional formation of their volumes and facades have formed the shape of Dubai’s city centre. The development of these skyrocketing buildings in Dubai has enhanced the country’s status, changed the city’s dynamic, and led to the overall infrastructural development of the environment.
General public views community spaces as public places that are open and accessible to people – city squares, plazas, parks, boulevards, sunken gardens, and beaches. These spaces are perceived as social, recreational environments to create a connection between the people and the streets. Community spaces have more architectural purposes than just being relaxing spots for people to interact and exchange ideas. In her TED talk on urban public spaces, Elizabeth Diller states that “Public spaces should be as free and abundant as the air we breathe.” Public spaces are just as important as buildings in an urban environment. Built structures and open public spaces are interdependent to derive their purposes from one another. They are hubs for cultural development, entertainment, outdoor dining, and sport. Densely developed urban fabrics exhibit a need for community spaces offering people areas for diverse activities to blend the city and the natural world.
Burj Khalifa Tower Park: Most tall buildings in the world are nestled in a park with an attempt to integrate the building and open gardens into one: a reimagined idea of Le Corbusier’s towers in a park concept. The park is spread over an area of 11 hectares. Design features such as entry fountains, water terraces, and fountain pools aim to regulate the region’s microclimate to make the park a more livable and culturally aligned community space.
Besides these, I’m sure many of us would like every tower to have a larger open space at their foot to lean and look at these rather tall buildings!
Monumental Buildings | Perspective shift
Monumental buildings were an attempt by man to create large spaces to be used as public or communal spaces. Like the skyscrapers today, these buildings were assets of the culture, power, and economy of many empires in history. Monumental buildings, created for several years now, are located worldwide, representing a unique regional architectural style. They are perceived as a symbolic expression of their era’s social status, culture, spiritual beliefs, and material innovation. Architects believed that the time invested in monumentality reflected the importance of establishing a corporate identity.
Skyscrapers, community spaces, monumental buildings, and the list can continue!
Architecture has subconsciously impacted our abilities to open our ears to the hidden voices of a building and perceive them through several lenses.
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Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/architecture/skyscraper.htm
Bianca Anastasiu,(2021) The pivotal role of public spaces in successful urban design Available at: https://www.chapmantaylor.com/insights/the-pivotal-role-of-public-spaces-in-successful-urban-design
Land 8: Landscape Architects Network (2014), Burj Khalifa Tower Park.
Available at: https://land8.com/burj-khalifa-tower-park-the-oasis-like-paradise/
Underwood Archives(2013).Downtown Chicago[Photograph](Chicago)
Herald Nachtmann(2015).Dubai’s Skyline[Photograph](Dubai: Herald Nachtmann Photography)
Greg Goodman.Looking down[Photograph](Dubai: Adventures of a Goodman)