Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reimagining Architecture in the Modern Age

As the boys of Monty Python are apt to say: "And Now for Something Completely Different!"
One of the joys of being a cenophile (using the greek root ceno = new, not the latin, though it is applicable for a foodie like me) is encountering new and interesting fields of study and integrating that information into new world constructs.
In college, people often questioned my choice of Economics and Theatre as a dual major. The general response I learned to provide was that between these two fields, you can include practically all genre of  information: Sociology, Antropology, History, Psychology, Art, Physiology, Political Science, Law, Mathematics and Analysis, ... Really, anything outside of the principal "hard sciences" of physics, chemistry, and bio, though recently I've begun to revisit and rethink the fundamental connections between perception and action.

As my wife is an architect and designer, her work affords me a glimpse into the philosophies of an entirely different realm of study - that of the designing and modulation of the very world around us. What follows is some introspection on how we craft our environments based on traditional structures, and a glimpse into a future in which we structure our living spaces more closely alligned with our own needs and behaviors rather than forcing them to conform to a standardized, outdated model.
Even with the modernization of our designs and the introduction of ecological thinking, there is a tendency to fall back on traditional modes of space planning. Despite living in am instantaneous, technology driven world, the structures we build still revolve around the primitive, hearth-centric design instead on the needs and habits of it's human occupants.

While the modern kitchen tends to be removed from it's central living space, instead we have a location of play, culture-worship, and (oftentimes) eating. The Den/Living Room model is simply replacing a hearth with the light of the TV, where everyone gathers around to engage in communal consumption within limited confines.

The bedroom is protected and recessed, often times removed to a higher floor as if being "safer" from outside invasion. This "castle thinking" limits our design horizons even among the most radically modern decorations. By adhering to old space planning methods, all modernity becomes is a new skin, a shiny coat of paint on an old room, or, at worst, a wall paper used to cover moldy ideas and outdated thinking.

In many ways, even the move towards more open "communal" living spaces is, in fact, a retread of prehistoric cave living and an extension of the standard experience of a college dorm into everyday life.
With technology modernizing the way we live our lives at a fundamental level, access and engagement lies everywhere. Our culture thrives on the ability to create spontaneous groups of individuals, but our physical environments are poorly design and incapable of supporting such activity. We are beginning to see some movement in this direction in the software industry, as the "agile team" development concept starts to inform the environment and even the furnishings of the workplace.
In the age of pervasive connectivity and engagement, it is appropriate and necessary to rethink how we design the structures we live our lives in.

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