Stories in Architecture

There are stories of Architecture. There are stories about Architecture. There are stories in Architecture.

Every building has a story. Every building tells a story. These are frequently two different stories. One is about how a building came to be. The circumstances of it's existence. The other is about the community in which it exists.

I have long maintained that Architecture is a reflection on the culture which births it. Buildings do not just happen. They happen within a context. A physical context, and economic context, a social context, and a cultural context. All of which play a vital role in both how a building looks and how it is used. While i could argue that this is true of all buildings, i think it is especially true of public buildings. And even more so of cultural institutions.

Here in Mansfield, OHio, we have two primary such institutions. One dedicated to the visual arts, the Mansfield Art Center. And one dedicated to performing arts, the Renaissance Theatre. And each tell a very different story about the culture that birthed them. While both speak of a culture that values art they each tell very different stories of the community as a whole.

On the one hand there is the Mansfield Art Center that speaks to the forward thinking culture that made it happen some 40+ odd years ago. A group of people with a vision for what the arts were and could be in Mansfield endeavored to compliment their passion for the visual arts with Architecture. Largely unchanged over it's history, the building is still one of the most modern in town.

Mansfield Art Center
The Mansfield Art Center. Opened in 1971


On the other hand there is a performing arts venue that started it's life as a movie cinema. The theatre has a had a rough and troubled history, though the original building and it's careful restoration speak of a culture that valued the arts. The recent addition, on the other had tells the story of a regressive culture. One with a confused sense of its past and no vision for its future. One that has lost site of the values that led to the creation of the venue in the first place.

Renaissance Theatre
The Renaissance Theatre. Opened as the Ohio Theatre in 1928. Restored and Renamed in 1985. Expanded in 2009.


While i think the most building projects are undertaken with no real thought given to the story the building will tell, it is important to realize the extent to which they reflect cultural values. Material choices, formal relationships, functionality, usability, siting, etc.. all tell a story about what is important to our community. Are we progressive or regressive? Do we value the activity for which the building is designed? Do we value our history? Are we looking to our future? Do we value community or are we isolationists? The list goes on...

What story do you want to tell?


For more interesting stories of, about, or in Architecture:

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture
The Secret Ingredient To Convincing Anyone To Do (Almost) Anything

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect
Architectural Storytelling - It's My Thing

Marica McKeel - Studio MM
Take the Time to Tell Your Story.

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet
Architects can Improve their Marketing by Incorporating Storytelling

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect
architecture as storytelling

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect
AE048: Success Through Storytelling with Bob Fisher of DesignIntelligence

Evan Troxel - TRXL
It's Their Story

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC
Architectural Storytelling: The Legacy of Design

Collier Ward - Thousand Story Studio
Architecture and Storytelling are Forever Linked

Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen

Nicholas Renard - Cote Renard Architecture
The Story of a Listener

Jeremiah Russell - r| one studio
architectural storytelling

Andrew Hawkins, AIA - Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
Architectural Story Books

Jes Stafford
Modus Operandi Design
Architectural Storytelling - Discovery of a Passion


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