In the continually evolving field of architecture, the role of humans, people, and culture is continuously significant, but there seems to be a gap between the built environment and the people who inhabit it. Perhaps considering architecture through an anthropological lens can begin to bridge that disconnect, providing insights into the diverse needs and preferences of individuals and communities on a local to global scale, leading to a harmonious architecture that is not in conflict with its occupants. A strong understanding of people is crucial in assisting architects in creating spaces that effectively respond to the needs of the primary occupants of the space.
Understanding “Architectural Anthropology”
To fully appreciate the possibilities offered by an architectural anthropological approach requires a general understanding of anthropology as a discipline. Anthropology is considered to involve the study of human societies, cultures, and evolution. So, what can be considered Architectural Anthropology? Architecture should not only be thought of as a building but instead as a discipline of study, an inquiry marked by a fascination with materials, structures, and atmospheres leading to a multisensory environment and habitation for both humans and non-humans alike (Stender, Claus Bech-Danielson and Aina Landsverk Hagen, 2021). Following this approach, architectural anthropology seeks not to discard the physical realities of architecture but rather to investigate its inhabitants, materials, and environment, to which it is the architect’s role to respond. Through architectural anthropology, architecture becomes an exploration into current conditions that inform future possibilities but is based on rituals, routines, and traditions; it is no longer just about space but experience. By actively seeking to understand users, architecture could become part of a cycle in which it is shaped by people, cities, and landscapes and then shaped back.
Appreciating Social Dynamics
The build is about its possibility and its interwoven nature with human experiences and needs, drawing from the basic contours of human existence as a collective being in the world (Dodd, 2017). With Architectural Anthropology, the constant social flux of coming, going, unravelling, and coming together is not a disturbance but a consideration of the environment of equal importance with natural occurrences such as river coasts, valleys, etc. Architectural anthropology works to assume that occupants automatically adjust to what is created for them. By understanding these complex social dynamics, not only are new possibilities created, but they also begin to actively affect the participation of users in the creation and shaping of their surroundings. Space is not static; it is alive with activities, interactions, communities, culture, contexts, resources, techniques, and people. “All of these interact in our ways of inhabiting the world, intervening in where and among whom we belong and how space is lived” (Stender, Claus Bech-Danielson and Aina Landsverk Hagen, 2021).
From Study to Construction: Building as part of the Anthropological Process
Building or construction could be considered the final stage in the architectural anthropological process, as it marks a level of finality. The anthropological activity is seen to be concluded, but this could become a mark of the social to the material. Construction is where architectural anthropology could begin to engage with the world, creating a point of intersection between those who create and those who will dwell (Stender, Claus Bech-Danielson, and Aina Landsverk Hagen, 2021). With this approach, the build is not just a structure, a solid, but an appreciation of labour and skill, which permanently marks a shift of space, users, and activities as part of the cycle. Construction and the building bring about a new experience of tactility and contact, becoming an interchange of materials (Ingold,2013).
“Nothing is ever finished” (Stender, Claus Bech-Danielson, and Aina Landsverk Hagen, 2021). Embracing architectural anthropology could serve as a transformative understanding of the way architecture is conceived, planned, and built, collaborating with the intricacies of human behavior and culture. In a world where the digital and automated are envisioned as solutions continually embedded in practices of life, perhaps it is time to turn to a more active anthropological inquiry that could offer new ways of knowing and provide new modes of making, being in and experiencing the materialities, atmospheres, and socialities of physical, sensory, technological, possible, and imagined space (Stender, Claus Bech-Danielson and Aina Landsverk Hagen, 2021). As architects, we become collaborators with the intricacies and diversity of a society, ensuring not only functionality within the built environment but also creating and allowing for designs that resonate and have a positive influence on all considerations of human life. (Stender, Claus Bech-Danielson and Aina Landsverk Hagen, 2021). As architects, we become collaborators with the intricacies and diversity of a society, ensuring not only functionality within the built environment but also creating and allowing for designs that resonate and have a positive influence on all considerations of human life. (Stender, Claus Bech-Danielson and Aina Landsverk Hagen, 2021).
<< Reference List>>
- Dodd, J 2017, Phenomenology, Architecture and the Built World : Exercises in Philosophical Anthropology, BRILL, Boston. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [10 January 2024].
- Ingold, Tim. Making : Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture, Taylor & Francis Group, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/brookes/detail.action?docID=1170339.
- Stender, M, Bech-Danielson, C, & Landsverk, HA (eds) 2021, Architectural Anthropology : Exploring Lived Space, Taylor & Francis Group, Milton. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [10 January 2024].