Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On the Value of Architects

Every minute of our lives will be spent in public and private space. I am at a desk in a public space, waiting for students to arrive and use our facility. The layout of the room was designed with this in mind, a big, open computer lab, with desks in back for tutors and teachers to observe without leaning over a shoulder. There are classrooms that began as a thought in someone's head, with a layout of desks designed by someone.

I parked in a garage near here. The side of the building is covered in recycled plastic that forms an elegant and otherworldy weave pattern. There is little utilitarian function for it beyond just shading the hard concrete, but it is ornamental and distinctive and recycled.

Every building in all the cities of the world, every room began as an idea in someone's head, sketched out on paper, imagined and observed by moneyed interests that got to choose to make real or not.

We invent our landscape as a community. We go from parks carved out, selected, interpreted by designers of parks, and implemented. Our homes were built by architects and contractors who design homes to sell homes to people, and then we buy homes because of furniture, or buy furniture because of homes.

At the end of the day, everything we see is designed.

Architecture is a rough gig. It requires long years of schooling, and afterwards a long apprenticeship in an unstable field, paying relatively little. They scrounge around for sponsorship, marrying rich if they are lucky. All for art, they tour the continents, observing the great palaces and gardens and the way light moves across rooms in open space.

Every road is planned out, considered as a means and method and artery of life. Every cul-de-sac is intended for a lifestyle that it supports, like a pulsing organ. Every grand, huge building that bears some incredible name is at once a monolith of the founder, and an outward expression of interior belief.

Everything is designed. Everywhere is designed.

We are all walking inside the imagination of the city, itself.

We are all sleeping in a room born in someone else's head.

We hang curtains inside the imagination, and hang pictures on the walls and call it ours.

Call the architects and urban planners. Tell them how you want to live, and they will build it for you carefully, precisely, and the imagination of space lives on long beyond our lives in the solidity of steel and stone and heavy, red bricks.

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