In Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago by Blair Kamin, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, the author responds in a sense to an unasked question, that being, does architecture matter? As an architect, I’ve never really doubted if architecture mattered or not. My immediate reaction is “Of course it does!” However that response is as much an emotional reaction to my memory of becoming an architect as it is an acknowledgement of fact based on years observing how architecture forms the built environment and elicits physiological responses in people.
I tend toward thinking about architecture in context as I’m most concerned with the whole of cities – the interaction between people and the places they experience, less so the art of an individual building. This is not to say that the inspirational, aesthetic and meaningful art of a single building is unimportant. It is.
But, when I see the prevalence of health disparities for example – chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. in groups of people such that life expectancy is predictable with dismaying accuracy by one’s zipcode – I can’t help but think about how the places we have built contributes to those problems.
For me, architecture matters at the very least because of the way it impacts as Kamin writes “our visions and, thus, our actions” oftentimes in ways we don’t even notice. The built environment influences our health, household economics, time and choices in myriad ways.
What we do, imagine we can do, and don’t do, is influenced by place, whether we acknowledge that or not.
The Library is a recurring series on the books that confirm, challenge or otherwise inform the Peopled Places point of view.