Dialogues: Architecture Is Big

Architect Octavian Ungureanu / Architect’s Blog / Dialogues: Architecture Is Big

I used to post comments to this article that I found on ThinkArchitect.

Lee Calisti wrote: “My question is can we give to the profession while serving our clients? Or is our duty solely to the client paying our check? Do we have a duty to the local community, the larger environment, and to architecture as a profession? If so, what are we doing to further the practice of architecture in our day-to-day work? See, to me architecture is bigger than just the client or their single project.

In “Architecture Lessons: Ancient Rome” I was trying to tell the world the lesson that I was teaching visiting the ancient ruins: that a city is not built by architects and engineers. It is built by its community. The architects’ contributions to the hundreds of times, theaters, circuses, public places, aqueducts, temples, etc is a minor contribution. What they did was to simply answer to a very specific public and private order.

You may say that if architects and engineers were not over there, history would record all those buildings as being very ugly buildings. I think the care of the public and private clients made the architects express in such beautiful ways. I think in that ancient society, a cruel society, it would be such a shame to build ugly.  The whole society was so keen to take back from its city those public constructions that used to serve the entire community. There was a free entrance to the Coliseum. During the hot afternoons, both plebeians and aristocrats bathed in the same termae. All citizens debate in the forum. All people could get a judgment in Basilica Julia or Basilica Aemilia. The Senate was their representative power.

The sense of the development is not from the architects to the Romans. The Romans made the Roman Law and then they built the basilicas. They elected the elders to run the community, then they built Curia Julia. They wrote and played dramatic plays and then they built the theaters. They wanted healthy lives and they built Cloaca Maxima and aqueducts. They meant all of this to last, so they built them as good as they could. They have “stole” ideas and shapes, they invented the arch, the concrete, cranes. They used their whole creative energy.

Now, back to Lee: There is no effort from any architect that could replace this will of the entire society. There is no theory or style. There is no warning, no study to do this. The society, larger or smaller communities will have the cities and towns and villages their vision will allow them to have. We can wonder another millennium in front of the ruins of the lost republic. If a change that comes from the inner society won’t start, there will be no change. Except for postmodernism after modernism and post-postmodernism after postmodernism.