Monday, June 28, 2010

Architecture: Designing places

Architecture, good or bad, will inevitably leave an impact, whether it is to a visitor entering a place, a casual onlooker just passing by, merely catching a fleeting glimpse of a building, or to those who are directly involved in the process of creating architecture, be them the client, the end user, the specialist consultants, the approving government agency, the designer themselves, or the numerous stakeholders who are inevitably intertwined in the complex arrangements of a modern construction process. What makes it crucial to create good architecture, which is an arguable term given the subjectivity of the expression, is the very fact that its impact is far reaching and in most cases virtually permanent.

In practice, the architectural community is often torn between two distinct directions: One emphasizing the theoretical aspects of architectural form, space, order, expressionistic symbols, and design principles; and another that is purely pragmatic, considering mainly the clients’ needs and budget as the primary determining criteria in generating an architectural solution. In defining ‘architectural community’, one must no longer be constrained with the outdated notion that this should mean only practicing consultant architects. Architects, especially in recent decades, have become assimilated into various segments of the economy, finding opportunities in property development corporations, government agencies, and various entrepreneurial ventures. For this reason, decision makers and stakeholders in the property sector have now begun to realize the importance of designing architecturally significant developments that could add value, prestige and marketability to their projects. This common awareness has brought about a resurgence of architectural interest in Malaysia which permeates all levels of society, that even the average family looking for a new home will consider acquiring a property that is more ‘architectural’ than the other.

As for me, personally, I believe that proficiency in architectural theories and principles alone will not suffice. Architecture, even at its most iconic, is not about designing stand alone structures. Each building has to function as part of a larger urban framework. Therefore to create successful places, which in my opinion is the most important objective for designing buildings, it is vital that architects understand contemporary and traditional culture, history, and the complex changing relationships within each society. Architects should also keep themselves up to date with the development of contemporary ideas and philosophies. Only by understanding these powerful, often conflicting, forces that affect the way we live, will architects create works which are purposeful and above all, relevant to the community for which their projects are built.

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