Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Do Architects Need to dwell into the Realm of Politics?

"Do Architects Need to dwell into the Realm of Politics?"
"Can’t architects simply create nice spaces to enrich people’s lives?"

Wind ended his post “Evolving Aspirations” with the above two provocative questions. I found that both questions elicited a very strong, emotional response. The blood rushed through my face, and I felt the heat charge itself up and overwhelm me. Because intuitively and deep down, I could not bring myself to answer the first question in the negative and the second question in the affirmative. At the deepest level of intuition, I knew my answer. At the level of reason and logic, the question wanted further articulation. That explains this entry.

(I add a disclaimer for each of us, including myself. That there is no right answer. And there is no wrong answer. But there is choice, which can be conscious or unconscious.)

Every architect must make a personal choice on the type of architecture he wants to pursue, on the type of architecture and the type of process that gives him special meaning. This is a most personal decision, and nobody has the right to pass a value judgement on a consciously deliberated choice. If an architect, after knowing what each entailed, chose to avoid discursive politics and to focus solely on creating beautiful nice spaces, then that is his choice and he has my respect.

Therefore, what answer I give here can only be my most personal answer, applicable to no one else but me. I begin with a most basic premise, that I am myself. I am myself, before I am an architect-to-be, before I am a writer for react. To be myself means to embrace and celebrate the gifts with which I have been endowed: to think, to feel, to question, to do, to be.

To be me is to be bigger than an architect, to be more than what he conventionally does. (i.e. to design buildings, with structure, and make nice spaces that hopefully look pretty enough, that it may ensure its place in posterity, in some book or some magazine) To be me is to ask questions, to ask questions that take me outside the act of designing, drafting, photoshopping, building. To be me, is to ask questions and seek answers, that lead me to more questions. And finally, I discover, about myself and about the world.

It is when I am free, from notions of the convention of what is an architect, what an architect should do, should say, should build…. it is when I am free from all these that I am finally free to embark upon the act of creation. The creation of something that is an extension of myself, that holds special meaning to me, and in the process hold special meaning to the world.

In this process of creation, I realise that what I learn, what I know, what I experience, what I feel, melts together into this final product. I rest on the past knowledge of man, internalise it with my discoveries, to hopefully create a humble new something that makes a difference. I realise then that the act of creation is far greater than building and designing.

For creation transcends the profession, transcends the mere domain of architecture, transcends the mere tag of architect. For everything in the world relates to each other. The act of creating space cannot exist alone in the box of architecture, or architectural construction. The act of creating form and space can only arise from asking the questions that strike at the core and the heart of humanity.

And humanity thereby involves everything. Plants. Food. Science. Emotion. Emotions in politics. Ideas. Philosophical Ideas. Political Ideas. Language. Beauty. Ugliness. Money. Life. Truth.

We can only discover the truth by asking questions, by wanting to know what lies beyond. Beyond architecture, beyond column grids, dry-wall constructions, curtain walls, parametric forms. To want to know what lies beyond means to be a part of what lies beyond. A commitment to a truth that transcends fact is a personal act of will and conviction.

Now, I will tell you my truth. That there is no single domain called architecture, it is a lie we grew up with. Architecture is everything. It doesn't exist without history, philosophy, human feeling, human experience, society, culture, music, language, and everything that has involved humanity. And this why my architecture must include politics.

And truth can only come to he who has the courage to believe, and to make conscious choices.