Last night, just before going to sleep, I began to think about what good architecture is (Possibly because I’ve been skimming through a book called Buildings for the Arts (A book that is so old, I cannot find a link to it…)). Without getting to philosophical, I was specifically thinking about firms that make good architecture and examples of good projects. I understand that the term “good architecture” is totally subjective, but I also believe that when discussing “good architecture” the same types of buildings generally pop into everyone’s minds. I would go so far as to say that people might classify things as works of architecture and regular buildings.
Architecture: Modern residences, cultural centers, historic churches, museums, etc.
Buildings: Offices, public schools, prisons, grocery stores, etc.
I know the difference is not so black and white, and that there are examples of beautiful offices and schools, but generally speaking there seems to be a big difference in people’s perception of the use and importance of these different types of building programs. Without over generalizing, it would seem as though buildings serve purely functional purposes while architecture accounts for the user’s experience.
Here is a crude sketch of what I am talking about.
On the left, you can see what I am calling a building. Its focus is purely functional. In this instance, it was designed to efficiently sell groceries. The building is surrounded by a wind-swept asphalt desert that is likely double the size necessary and is used solely for the function of selling groceries. Though you will probably spend a significant amount of your life in and around this building, there is no effort made in terms of creating a desirable user experience. There are no windows, no daylight, no green, no public spaces, no attempt to get users to enjoy their shopping experience aside from air conditioning and a clean floor.
On the right, you can see my interpretation of architecture. Its focus is on creating a beautiful user experience. In this case, it is meant to represent a museum. Though it may be designed to house artwork, it also has a great focus on creating a desirable atmosphere. It is often times a haven of public spaces and galleries designed to attract users for no other reason than to enjoy themselves. Many times they are surrounded by parks and water features and have a great amount of emphasis put on drawing people into the building. Strangely, people do not visit a museum as often (or spend nearly as much money) as they do a grocery store. So why is it that a museum is so much better (in terms of architecture and experience) than a grocery store?
Answer: I don’t know…
To be honest, there are probably hundreds of reasons why there are “buildings” and why there is “architecture”, but I was kept up last night thinking about it. Here’s my solution:
The Grocery Museum
Each floor of the museum will house different food types. Detailed descriptions of the food’s contents and origins will be displayed on small placards, similar to that of a modern day painting. The temporary gallery will house all of the seasonal items and the surrounding park will contain a weekly farmer’s market full of local produce. The entire design will focus on drawing people to it and making people want to stay.
And, yes. I am only joking.