An invitation to artists and poets to develop thousands of better microworlds.
Architects are, in principle, in the worst position to defend architecture and its societal importance. If they do so, they are immediately accused of corporatism, of defending an arrogant, elitist profession. And yet their societal role is now more crucial than ever. But you won’t find any awareness of architects’ mission or usefulness among politicians, property developers, consultant engineers or entrepreneurs, who all see architects as spoilsports.
Unfortunately, even residents see them as the ones responsible for all the downsides of their shoddily built, sad little apartments. What these residents don’t realise, though, is that architects are the only ones with a mission to provide them with simple, permanent pleasures and a chance to enjoy all the advantages of a neighbourhood, of a beautiful view, of a well-proportioned terrace.
Architecture offers the one small chance we have to put some urbanity and humanity back into our neighbourhoods and our housing stock. It’s the only thing that tries to foresee pleasurable sensations and induce familiar emotions, the only thing that can take a holistic approach to inhabiting space, and that lives with the ever-present awareness that architecture is always local, proudly local, and never general, never generalisable. All places are different. All residents – women, men and children – are unique. It’s the only way we can foster well-being, the joys of living, and a passionate interest in our subtle but significant differences.
Architecture offers the one small chance we have to put some urbanity and humanity back into our neighbourhoods and our housing stock.
We must say and let everyone know that architects have long been sidelined from city development strategy. Technocrats and assessors are in charge, applying segregation standards, size standards and surface-area standards that determine densities and heights to make sure architects can never, under any circumstances, invent something human, optimistic or hedonistic. This is why we must never act like all those who have spread these nasty habits around the globe.
International architecture, that illegitimate heir to the International Style and functionalism, is a poison. We urgently need to decree that from now on all sensitive decisions involving the growth of our cities and neighbourhoods must be taken, in the interests of living well, by architect-poets endowed with empathy, the ability to identify with someone else and feel what they’re feeling; architect-poets who have thoroughly internalised the conviction that architecture is an art that keeps quiet about the fact that architecture is an art, and that it needs to invite other artists in.
This is why we need to live in places where architects can develop their art projects or are themselves artist-architects. And we need to remember that from now on architecture should be developed in collusion with artists. What if we stopped separating architecture and art?
Opening image: Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery, Château La Coste, Luberon Nature Park, France, 2020. Photo James Reede