Calling for an Architecture That Connects Us to Our Bodies

Common\Edge started an email correspondence with Dr. Nikos A. Salingaros a couple of months ago, that began with a complaint about the diminishing spatial abilities of young architects.

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Calling for an Architecture That Connects Us to Our Bodies

Calling for an Architecture That Connects Us to Our Bodies

On the disconnect between our bodies and our buildings: “It occurred at the beginning of the 20th Century, in a deliberate break with the past, breaking away from our own nature. Mechanization following violent social revolution required that we disown our biological nature, so the buildings of the future were meant for machines, not humans. Once the Second World War ended, the industries producing glass, steel, and cars threw their enormous weight behind this new vision of the world. Our society inherited and continues to abide by that worldview.”

On the need for a “new language for architecture”: “I would like to innovate while keeping all the adaptive common elements from past (pre-modern) building cultures. I’m referring, specifically, to visible welcoming entrances, framed windows with smaller panes, domes and vaults, symmetries, coherence with the vertical plain, vertical windows instead of horizontal ones, borders and transition regions, ceiling heights appropriate to social function, interior materials friendly to the touch, a variety of colors, and ornament—in short, what is found throughout buildings up to the 20th Century.”

A form language that respects our biological nature is good for human health and sensibilities—it fits perfectly with our physiology, goes further to satisfy basic human expectations of finely-tuned sensory feedback coming from our environment, acting in a positive manner on our body. After all, that’s what our body and brain were evolved to experience, not oppressive minimalist environments. All the examples I can give are historical, and that’s a damning statement on the disastrous state of the profession. “

On how architects access that new language: “That’s a problem. Not with access to our results, because whoever seeks them can find them on the web, but in using them once they discover them. Christopher Alexander and I provide working tools, design methods, typologies, checklists, etc. that can help a practitioner to produce adaptive buildings. All those tools are available for free or for the price of a book. But today’s architects are not trained to apply these analytical tools; they only know how to copy images. And I refuse to give them images to copy, because that misses the whole point of originality and adaptation. Thinking strictly in terms of images misses the human aspects of the building, ignores the users, their feelings, their long-term health. Architects have to retrain themselves to think analytically. And, for a discipline that was devastated of inherited knowledge and has run for decades using almost no design intelligence, the depth of our results can be overwhelming.” […]

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