Joy seems to be the cure for such seriousness. Architects feel joy when inhabiting spaces they find transcendent, but very few others do. I often feel architecture is designed more for other architects than the public. If bespoke spaces don’t inspire joy in the masses, what is an architect to do?
Another, more recent project, A Building for Sundays, folded joy into the design process from the outset. Using simple forms, the civic centre took on a playful and charismatic persona. The large saw-tooth roofs coupled with the glimmering aluminium cladding gave the building a child-like optimism, and I am often asked if the building is a school. Of course, representation still played an important role, but here it elevated what was already there rather than run in contrast to the architecture. The building was the focus of the image, rather than everything else. This project was presented on Zoom, so I can’t compare the reactions to the purple project. There weren’t any animated debates, sniggers, or confused silences. This project drifted back towards the expected, and once again I am unsure how to feel about this. The line between controversial and mundane seems blurry, and is in a different place for everyone.
What I do know for sure is that these two projects seem to be better received by my non-architect friends and family. In many cases the conversations begin with laughter or intrigue, but quickly progress into serious discussions over the practicalities of market stalls or the planning of theatres. Because, after all, architecture is a serious business and I don’t have a problem with that. I’m not naive enough to think that all of its issues can be solved by putting a giant asparagus in a render. I just think we would have better buildings if we got up from our Eames office chairs, kicked off our RM Williams, and had more fun with what we all love to do.