“Architecture isn't a tool to enact change, it is the tool to represent it”
Architecture as a whole has been pushed and pulled to several different planes of existence, from background as a theatre set to foreground as installation architecture promoting one thing or the other. The gradient is endless and so are its opportunities, the problem lies in the constant refusal to remember the original idea of architecture, not its modern idea of master of the world but its humble and somewhat basic beginning, the idea of shelter, of structure, not only physically but in society as well, architecture cannot be defined as foreground or background, for it exists in a gray area where it is both, the stairs that support you to go up a floor to the white wall in a forgotten room, it's the gray area that interests me, not the monumental or the theatrical or even the political architecture seen in history and in today's contemporary buildings. We can look at humanity's greatest buildings and they are an example of what is important to the society that produced them, in Ancient Egypt the pyramids and the Pharaohs existed at the center of societies focus and in modern days the bank, the corporation and recently and more positively, the museum and culture. Its is not the architecture that defines what is important but society, as architects we are powerless to produce cultural change, no matter how much we try, but not all is lost for we can certainly emulate cultural change that exist around us, thus mirroring societies mindset, it is no coincidence that once we look at humanities history, we look at its buildings, how, when, and why they were made, it shows the mindset the ideology and paints a clear picture of the civilization that produced it, what was important in that specific era and also what could and couldn't be achieved, as an example the lack of cleansing facilities in medieval europe shows the lack of interest in it, while centuries before the Roman bath was of common place. The technology was there, but societies interest was not, mainly due to larger context problems but the fact remains. As such Architecture isn't a tool to enact change it is the tool to represent it, to sell it, and make sure everyone knows how great one thing or the other is, we can look at Rome and its urban and large religious buildings as an example, the urban axis and its symmetry have no meaning embedded in it, but surely it represented power and divinity at the time, now a days once we visit said place, we still have a lingering feel of awe, but not of power but of history. The meaning changes but the architecture does not. I have said it over and over, architecture is hollow, it holds no meaning, and nor should it. Why you may ask? Think of the following, a house has been built where it was needed, meanwhile a few decades have passed and the family leaves its home. If architecture had meaning embedded in it, it would mean that house can do nothing short of being a home, after all, it was specifically designed for it, and yet, with a new owner, suddenly, it can becomes the office space of a small NGO. Did the architecture change? Was there massive restructuring done? No, and yet its function, utility and its perception have been altered drastically, all because its use has changed. Suddenly designing something specifically for a singular unique purpose seems foolish, what's the point of spending months working on making the best ouse possible, for it a a few decades down the line become obsolete? This is why architecture cannot focus itself on the production of the home, the office or the market, the best it can do is produce the best shell it can possibly make considering its external factors. It is always marvelous looking at the intricate work of a corinthian column or at the baroque work of the Chateau Versailles, and yet its necessity came from wants outside architecture, in case of Versailles, to showcase power and create envy for Louis XIV, is that when we analyze the palace today in the 21st century what we see? Or perhaps we look at the disproportionate balance of power and wealth and the mindset of the ruling class at that time, although im sure that was not the architects or the clients (Louis XIV) intention.
Lourenço Vaz Pinto