Do you remember the first time you ever made a fort from a few fallen branches in a field somewhere? There is something about crafting a space with your own hands, defining your domain. Maybe it’s to defend against enemy soldiers advancing and pine cones are grenades. Maybe it’s a castle and you are a princess.
OK, not everyone grew up in a rural area that actually had a field nearby. Maybe your branches are couch cushions, and the living room is your field. Regardless, we are meant to order the world; to shape our surroundings through really big imaginations. But how we shape our world matters. From building your dream house to crafting our cities; everything that is built should be beautiful. Now I know this brings up all sorts of questions like isn’t beauty subjective? Aren’t varied styles good? and … shouldn’t I be the one to decide what my house looks like? Others might ask; shouldn’t someone with some sort of training plan these things?
The answer to all of these questions is of course, yes.
But for the purposes of this blog I’d like to think about beauty a bit differently. I hope that everyone can agree on these characteristics to define beauty in the built world. A structure is beautiful if:
- It provides dignity to its’ inhabitants. Everyone deserves proper housing regardless of one’s wealth, status, or geography. No human being is more valuable than another. Ever.
- It respects the earth and all its’ resources.
- It is intentionally, carefully, and artfully crafted. Structures thrown together to last just long enough to put cash in someone’s pocket are out. Not considering a structure’s role on its site, neighborhood, and city are out. These are not matters of style.
Now I must also add that I do think that some “styles” of architecture are better than others… “gasp”… but my opinions are founded on much more than simply aesthetics. I am a card-carrying Modernist for many reasons, not the least of which is a strong gag reflex for pasted on embellishments that have nothing to do with what is actually happening with the building (meaning if it is not holding the building up, keeping something out, or holding something on…. it is not needed). Modernism …when done well… is logical, efficient, and honest; all things that translate to beauty in my opinion. There is way too much on this topic to tackle here, so I will leave it for future posts.
All this to say that we have a responsibility; a role to play in the shaping of our surroundings. A million decisions are made everyday – by all of us – that effect our built world. I don’t care if you are an Architect, City Planner, Real Estate Developer, Homeowner, excruciatingly small apartment renter (right there with ya), or currently-residing-on-my-parents-couch-er … nobody gets a pass.
Because the world is really just a big field. A big, beautiful, fragile field that we get to play in.
…and we need to have really great imaginations.