Monday, August 25, 2008

Our Place in the City

This is an article i wrote for my schools bi-annual periodical. This was written my last semester of school before graduation. It is the bases for another article i hope to write in the near future to try and get published in a Chicago weekly.

I live in the city.

I was raised in rural south central Wisconsin.

I consider myself a “city person”.

As we move about our environment, as architects we have a far different perspective then many of the other inhabitants of our neighborhoods. As architects though, we are asked, and it is our joy to provide, and define, the spaces for others that know no more then what they like. Some do not even know what it is that they like. In the case of the city we are often charged with developing one small piece of a larger whole. Physically this space may be extremely insignificant in the scope of the size of a metropolitan area. Spatially though, that structure or intervention in the fabric of the city has a much more reaching effect. A bus stop effects everyone in the area that uses it, and those on the busses that stop at it. A tower effects all in it, all at its base, and all that are a part of the views it creates or destroys.

So what exactly does this mean for us? It seems that this comes down to a question of ethics. Not just building within code so it is ADA compliant or that it is LEED certified. A project can easily be both of those and still have an extremely negative influence on the area around it, and the city that it floats in. By ethics I am referring to the need for all architects to design with the intent of producing something that will serve those that will experience it.

This involves an intense level of integrity on the part of the designer. And in design integrity involves the attention to detail. We are in the business, whether we like it or not, of fortune telling. We most predict how every detail of a building will work not just at the moment of construction, but even more so at the moment many years from now that a detail will be experienced by someone. To clarify, detail is not meant to imply small pieces of structures as much as individual designed parts of defined spaces. Every moment, every turn, every view.

I am deeply saddened and often extremely inspired by the built world around me. When asked why I chose to become a designer I rarely have a coherent answer, but I believe it has something to do with that. I have been moved by the world around me and have chosen to express that through my life’s work. Remember that at any and all moments the decisions of designers will knowingly and unknowingly change the lives of all that experience them.

1 comment:

  1. "Remember that at any and all moments the decisions of designers will knowingly and unknowingly change the lives of all that experience them."

    This was always one of the most difficult things about designing, starting with ideation sketches and what you "want" it to be... and turning it into something more along the lines of what it "needs" to be. Excellent post.

    I e-mailed you perhaps two weeks ago, and I am posting here now to see if maybe the address I contacted you at was not correct, or perhaps you did not wish to respond. Anyway, I figured I would give contacting you another shot before giving up. If you are able, please write me back at If not - thanks for your posts anyway, it is enjoyable to read about architecture and design without reading just facts. You provide a more artistic and often poetic outlook on the world of design. Thanks again.

    Alexandra Clay