Experiencing Architecture Essay, Research Paper
What is it that we mean when we say ‘the architecture of the city’? What are cities planned to be?
Why should we plan anything? When we plan ahead, we perhaps have a goal in mind.
What is this goal, for an architect or an urban designer?
Simply putting it, their goal is to make environments in which man can live in ways better than he could before. Right from the early times, when shelter meant only a roof over ones head, or when taking shelter meant seeking protection inside a cave or getting under the tree cover, man sought to improve his living conditions. He sought shelter that was more comfortable than the one he had before.
From caves and trees, man moved to mud huts and animal skin tents. Constantly striving towards improvisation to suit his changing needs, he has today, shelter in the form of buildings in brick and concrete, that he has termed architecture; gardens and malls where he spends his leisure time, these along with the buildings and the spaces between, he calls urban fabric. There are road networks, that link buildings to each other, buildings to public plazas, that link living areas to work areas, or living areas to educational areas, or living areas to shopping areas.
Man has first fragmented his lifestyle and living spaces, then attempted to join it with roads. What he fragments, often stays fragmented forever. Life for him is still a series of experiences which he sometimes can see as a whole but often not. What was once upon a time harmonious living, is divided up into neat compartments with supposedly greater efficiency. Today, we have intelligent buildings that have automated functions. But, what is the sequence of experiences one can have within these buildings? Does that matter or not at all? Are they experiences that satisfy human nature or is it a contrived environment that is far removed from the real world?
Do experiences generated by this new architecture, by this new urban design, by this new city planning still inspire man to think and to feel? Does it make him grow, or does it strangulate his sense of being?
As an architect or urban designer, must one know all about space and form and structure and nothing about life’s experiences, about feeling, about nature? How does an architect or urban designer know about all of life’s experiences? Is it possible for one man to know so much about life and what it has to offer, that he can design for the rest of mankind? We live our lives through our daily experiences. Each of us gathers a new set of experiences every day that are different from those of any other of our fellow beings. What we are is an outcome of the experiences we have had. And therefore, what I am, decides what I do.
My needs are based on my experiences in life. How am I to know what the needs are of all the people on this earth? Must not the people, all of them, think sometimes about the spaces we design for them and how these affect their lives? Why should people accept what architects give them? Does an architect know so much about life to take all decisions about living environments on his own?
I begin to think about the experiences within different environments that I have had in recent times. How do my surroundings affect me? What are the thought patterns that these environments generate? There are images reproduced in my mind in the form of mental sketches, that my mind captured, at the beach, on the
street, within a building, on the bus or in the church.
Usually, of the human senses, it is the eye that over-rides the others. While the eyes see, visual images form in the mind. These images come together. The mind derives meaning in their coming together. This meaning takes the form of thought. So, a thought occurs. likewise It is followed by another thought. Visual images are the unbiased pictures seen through the viewfinder of the eye’s camera, but the thought patterns that arise are completely individualistic. No two minds can have the same sequence of thoughts, although the visual imagery registered in their minds could be the same.
Experiences in life make us think the way we do. Although two people could see the same things at the same time, they might not always do so. If I walk through a busy shopping street, I see and remember. If I walk through the same street with you, I still see, but what I see is different from what you do. I see the window displays on my right. You notice the street vendor on your left. I feel the cold metal of the railing, while you observe its intricate pattern .
If you see the street vendor, you may also see the window display the next moment. If you notice the pattern of the railing, you may also soon feel the cold metal. Time is a dimension to be considered too, is it not? Whilst walking, what might be within the range of vision one moment, might not be, in the next. If you don’t notice the window display at this moment, in the next moment, we are not near the window anymore. Experiences are linked with time, aren’t they? In the experience of a city most events are for a moment. The next moment they are gone.
So, architectural experiences and experiences through cities are related to time. They result in the formation of both visual images and thought patterns. When we share our differing experiences with each other, we perhaps understand nature and spaces better. A sharing of such experiences may bring about a more meaningful approach towards the design of our environment.
For example, in our country, India, there is a lot that is fragmented and that comes together randomly to form a whole which is so much more rich in nature than a putting together in an orderly fashion, of uniform, standardized parts. I believe that research into the phenomenon of architectural experience and its possible objectification is the spring board towards a more vibrant and humane built environment. We must know if the design processes we employ are the same as the thought processes we undergo whilst experiencing these urban spaces that we design. We must know, which experiences we enjoy the most, how these experiences come about and if the designer must play a role in making these happen, where must he begin?
For example, in our country ,India, there is a lot that is fragmented and that comes together randomly to form a whole which is so much more rich in nature than a putting together in an orderly fashion, of uniform, standardized parts. The study of the experience of architecture I think is the spring board to the creation of more vibrant and humane environments. We must know if the design processes we employ are the same as the thought processes we undergo whilst experiencing these urban spaces that we design. We must know, which experiences we enjoy the most, and how these experiences come about and if the designer must play a role in making these happen, where must he begin?