“A house can have integrity, just like a person,’ said Roark, ‘and just as seldom.” –The Fountainhead
What does our architecture say about us? I know I have touched on this idea previously, but I think this question is incredibly pertinent, so pertinent that I will repeat it—what does our architecture say about us?
I think it says we don’t care. We are apathetic to our surroundings and the fact that we continue to build these cookie cutter communities, connected only by pavement and concrete seems to be proof. These communities are desirable, but not because they are created for low-income families–they are chosen by the middle-class and wealthy. Specific developments are even built for wealthier people who pay extra for fancy features to which they have in common with the rest of their street. They are not formed due to a last resort–these developments are actually wanted and desired. Many who live there may be seeking community for their family and children, but I would be willing to bet that the majority of people do not even know their neighbors, especially if they are not planning to stay there for long. All of which can occur due to this unspoken communal acceptance of aesthetically uncomfortable spaces.
I think we may be too afraid to admit that our surroundings affect us, possibly because it would require too much responsibility. It would require work, money, time and consideration. Most people see that as a major drawback and resort to function, low-cost, quick and ugly. Since when did this list universally outweigh the previous? Believe it or not, there have been cultures that would have never chosen money over beauty because what they were building was worth it and it meant something. Our architecture reflects our values and we clearly don’t value beauty, hard work, consideration and individuality.
“Belief in the significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are, for better or for worse, different people in different places – and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be.”–Alain de Botton
Our apathy toward the places we inhabit will perpetuate more apathy and hopelessness in our desire to do anything about it. Architecture should be seen as a form of art, like it once was. It should display humanity’s hope for something greater than itself. The value of art and beauty as it is seen in man’s inhabited space, has been lost; with that, an endless list of other values that are essential to a thriving community. This issue starts and ends with man. We are the builders of our environment and unless our values change, our architecture will remain hopeless. If our architecture remains hopeless, we will inevitably remain hopeless as well.