I woke up this morning walking down the backstreets of Granada, searching for my dog amid the soundscape and memory of a colorful world of twirling imagery. I woke up in my bed from a dream of an intensely sensual world into this remarkable world of passion and discovery we like to call architecture.
There are many things that come and go in our modern world. Most of the things we encounter or need in our daily lives are products manufactured in the great spirit of the Industrial Revolution. Yet thankfully, architecture remains one of the bulwarks against mass production.
In an age when every form of art and craft has been packaged into a plastic container of instant satisfaction and convenience, the hand of the architect still matters. It is why every building in our city is, at one point or another, the labor of love of someone who once dreamt of creating a masterpiece of concrete and steel.
Architecture defies being shoehorned into the perfect white box as if shouting in protest about the diversity and vastness of human experience. It is as if the building of a living human environment stands in direct opposition to machine precision and unimaginative metrics.
“The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care.” And our beating hearts waft and flutter chasing after the things which ignite our passions. Our passions are our luxuries. I find that my passion for architecture stems from the crossing of a pair of very human needs—the wonder of discovery and the romance of the impossible.
The Wonder of Discovery
There’s this statue from Infinity Studio by Zhelong Xu that I’ve been smitten by and endlessly trying to acquire the last few days. It tells the story of a boy who loves dragons and went in search of it unafraid of any difficulties or danger. It reminds me of an uncle who once told me there were nine dragons and that they did exist but only children could find them. For you to see dragons, you had to believe they were real and only children do so these days. The dragons lived way up in the mountains and no child could ever manage to go search for them, and so gradually people started to think that dragons were just legend and myth.
Dragons have always represented the wonders of this world for me. The ever elusive dragons of my world are ideas that have the power to change our world. We are blessed with an incredible capacity for imagination, an ability to discover and form new ideas that can move us forward even in the most challenging times.
Architecture is a journey full of discovery. At its heart, it is about the discovery of ideas that open new doors, ideas that stand the test of time and continue to affect and enrich our daily lives.
Jane Jacobs in “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” advocated for more humanist walkable cities with mixed uses and layered history. An idea that continues to elude our city planners to this day, her ideas focus on the vibrance and energy of a dense urban tapestry that weaves together people like no other social construct could.