Philosophy + Profile
Architecture as Art
“Only after speculating the worlds of both the actual and the fictional together can architecture come into existence as an expression, and rise into the realm of art.
In architecture, there is a part that is the result of logical reasoning and a part that is created through the senses. There is always a point where they clash. I don’t think architecture can be created without that collision”
– Tadao Ando
As Ando so eloquently suggests, architecture is not exclusively engineering or art, but the synthesis of both the actual and the fictional, acting in concert with one another.
“Architecture is a usable art. It is sculpture – but sculpture usable by human beings – with doors and windows, openings for light and air. And these openings do not diminish the qualities of the sculpture – on the contrary, they complete it. In short: architecture is sculpture with the gestures of human occupation.”
– Charles Correa
There have always been those who have wanted to reshape the world in which they lived. The architectural visions produced by these creative thinkers, environmentalists, high-tech enthusiasts, artists and other visionaries have always explored a world quite different from the mainstream. They have shown us new ways of living, working and also new aesthetic forms for building.
While the term “visionary” conjures up notions of the idealistic, the Utopian, the impractical and the dreamer and thus is often disregarded as serious, it has a much more positive side – It suggests unusual perception into the worlds we cannot visit everyday.
Upliftment of Human Life
As Maslow’s heirachy of needs demonstrates, people have both basic physiological and practical needs as well as psychological and emotional needs. Architecture and the built environment has to consider and address all the needs of the people who interact and inhabit it.
Humans are not machines, but are fundamentally emotional beings. Every environmental stimulus triggers an emotional and sometimes physiological response. Architects are responsible for creating a built environment that edifies all aspects of human life, from the physical to the emotional.
“Architecture can move us, it elicits different emotions. It can bring back memories, but it can also elicit direct emotions, like letting you feel small or big, or giving a safe feeling or an unsafe one. Architecture is sometimes even able to bring us in a spiritual mood. But the same space can make someone feel calm while another person might feel uncomfortable or even unsafe there. Yet most of us feel small in a big Gothic church and unsafe in a dark alley at night. Architectural spaces have certain atmospheres that influence the emotional state of a person: the interaction between the environment and its occupant.”
We believe that the users of our architecture are the ultimate priority, and shaping an environment that considers and addresses the wholistic needs and desires of the people that it serves is our imperative.
“Planning decisions should be concerned with creating a vital city that looks toward the future. The city is a great spiritual creation of humanity, a collective work that develops the expression of culture, society, and the individual in time and space. Its structure is intrinsically complex; it develops more like a dream than a piece of equipment. The impact of the spiritual, the individual, and the creative cannot be relegated to some outdated past. As long as there are human beings, there will be the possibility of dreaming the impossible and achieving the possible, which is the very essence of humanity …”
Libeskind – essay, LETTERS FROM BERLIN” pg 29 in “Architecture for the Future”, Dubost, C. & Gauthier, J (Ed 1996) Paris: PierreTerail
Architecture and Nature
People can concentrate better after spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature. Natural environments abound with “soft fascinations” which a person can reflect upon in “effortless attention”, such as clouds moving across the sky, leaves rustling in a breeze or water bubbling over rocks in a stream.
In nature, an individual no longer needs to block out noise and other mental intrusions, allowing their mind to rest. Being away from the stress of day-to-day problems gives a person a mental vacation. And the vastness of the environment immerses a person in a mentally comfortable setting. Thus, nature may help people to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress
Many studies have shown peoples affinity for nature. It follows, then, if people tend to prefer environments in which they function most effectively, natural settings would promote well-being.
We are significantly influenced by traditional Japanese architecture, and Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, primarily with regard to interpenetration of exterior and interior spaces and the strong emphasis placed on harmony between man and nature.
The general features of traditional Japanese architecture include – the separation between inside and outside is itself in some measure not absolute as entire walls can be removed, opening the building to visitors. Structures are to certain extent, made a part of their environment, and care is taken to blend the edifice into the surrounding natural environment. Traditional Japanese interiors, as well as modern, incorporate mainly natural materials including fine woods, bamboo, silk, rice straw mats, and paper shoji screens. Natural materials are used to keep simplicity in the space that connects to nature. The properties of wood are valuable in the Japanese aesthetic, namely its warmth and irregularity.
A simple but vital truth that we acknowledge in our approach to architectural design, is that human beings and nature are symbiotically linked at many levels, and extricating people out of nature completely and placing them in a “concrete jungle” has onerous psychological ramifications. An architecture that strives to prioritize the needs of the user is obligated to consider the inclusion of natural elements required for health and well-being.
Architecture and the Urban Fabric
As architects we are fully aware of the impact that our buildings have on the urban fabric, and vice versa.
As creatives, we are inspired by the energy of the city as it unceasingly moves, radiates and evolves like a vast living organism.
We strive to use each opportunity presented to us to have a positive effect on the macro and local context. Participating in the collective process of improving the built environment is an honour we value highly.
Expressionist architecture is individualistic and in many ways eschews aesthetic dogma, but some criteria that can be found as recurring in works of Expressionist architecture include:
- Distortion of form for an emotional effect.
- An underlying effort at achieving the new, original, and visionary.
- Themes of natural romantic phenomena, such as caves, mountains, lightning, crystal and rock formations.
- Conception of architecture as a work of art. Expressionist architecture is an extension of the artist themselves, and because people are complex, the DNA of an expressionist building is rich with complexity and nuance.
Some examples of Expressionist buildings include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Santiago Calatrava’s Auditorio de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the Sydney Opera House and Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International airport.
Metropole Architects was founded in 1997 by Nigel Tarboton. Tyrone Reardon joined the office in 2002, and became a partner in 2004. Our offices are located in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.
23 Wanless Road, Glenwood,
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa