Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What if architects designed our communities?

@juliandobson #bloggerscircle Another random blogpost with an interesting link to my previous attempt on the Purpose of Diversity.

Julian Dobson finds a simulated picture of a group of people enjoying a new building. He notes the lack of diversity in the picture - everyone is young, thin and able-bodied, the couples are straight, and even the dog is white. According to the distinction I made in my previous post on the Purpose of Diversity, the diversity that this lacks is imaginary diversity - diversity of the image.

Prompted by this picture, Julian asks What if architects designed our communities? As some of the comments below Julian's blog point out, pictures like these may not be produced by architects themselves, but they are produced within a system supposedly governed by Architecture and whatever values it purports to represent. The picture causes us to wonder what kind of community (if any) this system has any interest in.

Because the picture doesn't just lack diversity, it also lacks community. The people in the picture are not gathered in groups, they are standing alone or in couples, checking their mobile phones, not looking at each other. Some people are taking photos of thin air. There is a toddler, apparently without any parents, attracting no attention whatsoever. This is not how people behave in public, except perhaps in some autistic fantasy.

As Julian says, "Buildings are only of value, surely, at the point when they're used, animated by or engaged with by people" - and surely this applies to open spaces as well. But the picture shows some aimless and disengaged people in a meaningless space. So this does not tell us a good story about the de facto purpose of Architecture as it is practised, not as in the books of idealistic architectural theories but under the social and commercial constraints of the Real World.

See also Michael Mehaffy and Nikos A. Salingaros, The Architect Has No Clothes (Guernica, 19 October 2011)

Link added 5 November 2014

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