arkhitekton, arkhi- “chief” + tekton “builder, carpenter”
Imhotep, often quoted as the first Architect, and shrouded with the posthumous status of divinity
Bauhaus, the Gesamtkunstwerk, ‘Total work of Art,’ all in subservience to Architecture
Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities
Le Corbusier’s Cities of Tomorrow
Lord Reith’s Essay on Civilisation…
The list is grows endlessly from less is more, to less is a bore, to yes is more.
But what is this prescription of the (A)rchitect as the expert? Who has placed the right of reinventing the world of millions, billions into the hands of one trained to create and carve space. Where is the line drawn where the Architect moves towards master planner? Is it within a city sized scheme, or does the modular arrangement of a tower allow him/her to become the higher being to which all must blindly follow. The collection of rooms within a minor, private abode also ask the arrangement to be addressed, but is this a skill which can really be classed as a basic level of the master planning? One which can simply be developed upon to the point where the ‘Master Builder’ is praised for a new utopian dream open to the select few to follow, in the idle bliss of the walled city, floating Island, and encapsulated bubble.
In response to the notion of Utopian, and the right of the Architect as the prescriber, I pose a question of values, what is the Architect the expert of, what value does he/she aim towards in pursuit of resolution? The Architect who plans for the values of many, claims to be expert of a populous, declaring an understanding of the diverse individual differences in each participant. Be it through nature, or nurture, surely no individual can be the same as another, which in turn asks the Architect to understand each and every nuance or each and every person, all the while fully comprehending his/her own actions, reactions, observations, and interventions.
Is this possible?
Then we have the architect who explores a phenomenology; the perception and conciousness of a single individual. He/she that immerses them self in the life, history, daily, monthly, yearly and bi-yearly activity, attempting to understand and respond to every subtle variation, constantly reflecting on unearthed values – as deemed valuable by the occupant – in pursuit of a design that will ultimately impact more on this individual more that anyone else. This architect can never truly know their client, as much as I could truly understand you, and thus the architect becomes a secondary expert of one, and in that loses the ability to be indisputable. When the (A)rchitect cannot be an expert of one, how can he be the expert of many?
(One could stretch to argue with Jung’s collective unconscious, universal understandings; however I ponder if the null hypothesis of our sciences will ever tell us that one individuals concious reality can be described, understood and utilised by another? How does one fully compare concious experience?)
A design offered reflecting the direct values, needs, and appreciations of the individual offer that occupant a rich, highly applicable and dare I say more sensible design than that of the general “expert.” Who, beautiful drawings or not, offers little more than a branded wallpaper to backdrop daily life of the dweller, a generic solution, covering it’s shortcomings with illusion.
The Architect is subservient to life, to the people, to the dweller. He/she has a much more significant role to play than the production of a marketable product and it is one of people, not merchandise, of reality and not the non place of a branded utopia. Subservience does not mean the Architect is of lesser importance than every before, he/she becomes the vessel, the net, the one who must capture the values which may be lost and offer them back, carefully and with pace, through a unique and individual response, with constant thoughts to those in need. Our worlds population is made up of continents, cultures, countries, cities, societies, communities, groups, and ultimately individuals, and that is where Architecture must start.