a review by Laura Janicka
The role of architecture is a widely debated topic. From political roles of monuments to profit-driven mixed-use developments, all claiming to be endeavours developed in the best interest of society. But are we really looking into the core values that hold our society together today? Or does the current practice only lead to the imminent destruction of the self?
On the 18th October 2021 at 6pm, we had the pleasure to participate in a talk by Harry Francis Mallgrave: a distinguished Professor Emeritus from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and an award-winning scholar. During this talk he explored concepts and theories from his recent publications: ‘Building Paradise: Episodes in Paradisiacal Thinking’ and ‘From Object to Experience: The New Culture of Architectural Design’ and how the current practice and values explored in the design studio need to experience a methodological shift.
Mallgrave begun the talk by highlighting that the role of architecture is atmospheric. By not evoking mood and feeling, the designer forces the user into a psychological retreat if a physical retreat is not possible, resulting in a disconnect from our environment. He stated that since the beginnings of architecture, buildings have an inherent cultural impact as they host collective cultural rituals, and by building well-designed environments we can create a better society. He backed up his reasoning by pointing out how changes in our environment have ever so slightly changed our evolutionary trajectory, allowing us to be where we are today.
In the second half of the lecture, Mallgrave referenced concepts in his book ‘Building Paradise: Episodes in Paradisiacal Thinking’, stating that architecture needs to reintroduce the “garden-ethic”. Originating from the idea of a paradise, the garden is a place of peace, happiness and beauty and therefore a primal source of inspiration for architecture. Our current approach to ‘green architecture’ is technology-driven and lacks resourcefulness to create enriching spaces, he followed up with an observation that on the other side of every project is a human being that seeks passionate and creative environments, responding to their innate longing for beauty and happiness.
The seminar ended with a Q&A with a strong message aimed to all studying architects: it is our turn to design a future where the spaces are engaging, enriching and beautiful by widening our understanding of sociology and how we work as human beings.