Welcome to the Architecture of the Real.

"What is real? How do you define 'real'? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain." -Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)

When i received the topic of "Architecture in the Real World" for this installment of #ArchiTalks, my initial reaction was to pit the mundane against the spectacular. The world of everyday buildings against the world of signature pieces of Architecture. And there may be some validity to such an approach. I think i am not likely alone in this visceral reaction to the topic. The knee jerk reaction is to consider the mundane as the Architecture of the real world. Or, at the very least, projects for everyday clients with limited budgets that get little to no recognition in the glossy magazines. But i think this perspective does a disservice to the profession as a whole.

I have done a fair amount of work that is not glamorous. Clients who just 'need' a permit. Clients who want the cheapest building money can buy. Clients who are only hiring an Architect because the building inspector issued a stop work order and told them they need sealed drawings from a design professional in order to obtain a permit. While the work is not glamorous, i am generally happy to have been able to help them out. And i do not begrudge them only wanting to meet the minimum requirements. Building, after all is expensive. So is this the Architecture of the Real? Well, yes. And no.

" I just need a plumbing permit to install a new sink behind the bar"
" I just need a plumbing permit to install a new sink behind the bar"
"I've been operating for a couple of years, and now the city says i need a permit"
"I've been operating for a couple of years, and now the city says i need a permit"
"We just want to open a convenience store in this old laundry mat. Most of the work is already done. We just need a permit."
"We just want to open a convenience store in this old laundry mat. Most of the work is already done. We just need a permit."

 

Then there is the world of high profile signature buildings that get published. Buildings that the public, in general terms, do not understand. Nor do they appreciate. Such buildings are ultra expensive to build. They do not fit the preconceived notion of what a building is. They are funny looking. They do not fit their context. At least that is how they are viewed by the public. So are these types of buildings the Architecture of the Real? Well, no. And yes.

Zaha Hadid's Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
Zaha Hadid's Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
Frank Gehry's Vontz Center for Molecular Studies
Frank Gehry's Vontz Center for Molecular Studies

(The above photos are from my own limited collection of signature buildings that i have visited, so while they are perhaps no the best examples, i think they suffice for my purposes here. And avoid any potential copyright issues) 

 

Then there is a third category. An in-between. Where money is tight. But the client really does want to do something nice. They understand the importance of the building to their brand. And they want want it to reflect their values. And they understand the value of the Architect in achieving this. So is this where you will find the Architecture of the Real? Yes. But not exclusively.

Richland Pregnancy Services - Mansfield, OHio
Richland Pregnancy Services - Mansfield, OHio (Photo by Bryce Millikin Photography)
The Vault Wine Bar - Shelby, OHio
The Vault Wine Bar - Shelby, OHio (Photo by Bryce Millikin Photography)

 

All three participate in the reality that is our profession. The thesis. The Antithesis. The synthesis. How would we differentiate the spectacular be without the mundane? Would the mundane be bearable without the spectacular?

How do you define 'real'?

Read what other Architects have to say on the topic by following the links below.

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect
@bobborson
Architecture in the Real Wolrd ... sorta

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC
@MeghanaIRA
Architecture in the Real World

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL
@sramos_BAC
Architecture in the Real World

Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC
@Parthenon1
Architecture in the Real World

Marica McKeel - Studio MM
@ArchitectMM
Architecture in the Real World

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect
@LeeCalisti
Architecture in the Real World

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC
@L2DesignLLC
Architecture: It's a human thing

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet
@Jeff_Echols
What is the Real World: Architecture in the Real World

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect
@EntreArchitect
The HGTV Effect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture
@rogue_architect
architecture in the real world: #architalks

Michael Riscica - Young Architect
@YoungArchitxPDX
Architecture in the Real World

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect
@bpaletz
Architecture in the Real World

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
@mghottel
Architecture in the Real World

Nicholas Renard - dig Architecture
@dig-arch
Keep on Architect'n in the Real World

Andrew Hawkins, AIA - Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
@hawkinsarch
Here in the Real World

Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture
@mondo_tiki_man
Architecture in the Real World

 

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