Rebirth of Reason


Architecture is the selective recreation of reality through the use of three-dimensional space. Its purpose is to create an integration of structure, function and ornament according to the architect's own implicit values in order to ‘make a home for man.’

The stuff with which the architect works is space - human space. To paraphrase Protagoras, man is quite literally the measure of all architecture.

When making these spaces, the architect is necessarily making and expressing value judgements about existence and about man's place within existence. Specifically he is answering the question: "In this particular context, what spaces, and what about them, are important to this particular human life?" and he is answering the question by the manner of his chosen architectural expression.

The basic question to be asked then when reviewing architecture is this: What kind of man could be and should be at home here? The question is a fundamental one and the answer will be a product of the architect himself; it will come from his own implicit view of the nature of existence and of man's place in it - as Ayn Rand said of the artist, from his "metaphysical value judgements."

This is an important and overlooked point. Architecture is often considered only in a two-dimensional fashion, as being only a simple skin-deep set of surfaces. It is not -- the surfaces create a space to inhabit; architecture is more than just the raw materials that make up a building -- what is crucial is what those raw materials delineate.

In computing terms, the architect is constructing a 'virtual reality' - the armature of the building is there to shelter, to mask, to caress, to offer, to make the spaces and to make them what they are, but the reality of architecture is in the space itself that is created.

How to answer the question: What kind of man would be at home in this building, and how can we tell?

It is in the way that man is asked to inhabit them that gives us the clue. Is he offered shelter and comfort, or danger and darkness? Is he invited to move through them and enter them, being guided gently, or is he almost forced to move in a way he might rather not? It is in the way he is asked to respond: Is he led to raise his eyes, or to kneel?; in the way he is linked with the landscape - does it open up to him like a benevolent friend, or is it hidden from him like an adversary too powerful to confront?; in the way he is asked to meet others within the architecture - does he meet them by choice in suitably appointed facilities, or must he be forced to do battle with them in a daily struggle for privacy and a civilised existence?; in what he is offered within - are the spaces open, sunlit and delightful, or overpowering, enclosed and oppressive? - do they open up to him in an easy, logical, ordered manner, or come upon him in jumbled surprise? - are they dynamic and engaging, or static and lifeless?.

All these possible ways of forming space for man are open to the architect. Each choice is implicit in every decision of the architect's pen (whether he knows it or not); all these decisions in carving out this new reality embody his own deepest metaphysical value judgements (whether he chooses to recognise it or not). Each building made for man answers for itself the questions: is existence essentially benevolent or malevolent?; is it open to man's actions or closed?; is it knowable or not?; is man's proper estate flourishing or suffering? - fundamental judgements all, and all expressed in the way space is carved out of the material of existence.