We tend to see architecture as this magical thing that only a few great architects do. We look at projects of great importance and scale and fantasize of the magical land of architecture. We lose track of how every space that surrounds us is 100% pure architecture and how even the cheapest and tiniest apartments are a full on responsibility. The architect is in essence the one tasked with creating an environment. For that he uses design, architecture, construction, plumbing, social, cultural, historical, common sense and communication knowledge. It is not just a puzzle of lines and spaces. It is designing a world where children will grow, where people will be formed, where health will be taken care of and emotions will be embraced.
The responsibility of the architect is thus incredibly great. Is not an easy task and it should not be seen as one neither by the architect nor by the clients. That should be perfectly clear by acknowledging that one is playing with human lives and their futures. It plays with biology, culture, society and economy.
Architecture has a direct influence on the human biology. For example, switching to working indoors instead of outdoors has decreased the level of sun light intake and radically affected the levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is highly essential in maintaining the proper functioning of the human body and the sanity of a human being. This is simply a fact and not a critique for the modern day society.
Architecture has a direct influence from and on culture. The segregation culture of America has transformed cities into white and black and into houses and blocks of flats regions. This was culture affecting architecture. The architecture of the blocks of flats when well maintained brought people together and allowed cold spaces to build relationships and house warm displays of friendship. However, when badly maintained architecture brought chaos and desolation. – See the Pruitt Igoe project.
The social experiment of the communist world has taken people from their land and agricultural endeavors and brought them into compacted blocks of flats to live a “modern” life of industrialization and control. The architecture of boxes affected people by making them disconnected, ignored and even abandoned. Despite that, bonds and communities were formed. People searched for a sense of belonging. Some succeeded while others fell prey to the desolation. – See the legacy of the communist architecture in the Eastern block.
One of the traces of the lengthy religious conflict of the Netherlands can still be seen (out of its original context by now) in the lack of curtains. It was preferred to leave the curtains open in order to show there was nothing to hide. Otherwise one could be suspected of foul play or collaboration with other faiths. The cultural side effect is an intriguing sense of privacy and large living room windows to stare through.
The dire housing situation after the second world war has forced the Dutch to build fast and in large numbers. Initially this was coordinated by the state, however in later times the construction of houses has been taken over by private contractors. The lack of space combined with the desire to build as easy and as cheap as possible has created a large number of neighborhoods of identical small houses with cramped gardens and privacy issues. The psychological effect of the streets with identical facades can be seen in the desire to decorate windows and doors. It is a lovely feeling to see the personal displays, however underneath there is an unconscious deep desire to “own” one’s individuality.
– See most housing utopia projects.
In the 50’s the dream was to get married, have a good job, buy a house and make kids. Stability was highly desired, which comes as no surprise after the crazy years of war and destruction that preceded the period.
Today’s technology has allowed people to dream much further and see the world. The needs and emotional desires of not just young people are rather different. We strive to understand ourselves instead of pleasing our society and families. We travel, gather less, focus more and use different dynamics all at much higher speeds. The need to be one’s own person and build on that individuality allows a greater freedom in space concepts. The different rhythms also raise the question of whether the traditional housing architecture does fulfill properly the biological needs of the human body.
I love the beauty of a floor plan and the way it ties it all together. My goal is to research and make architecture focused on making people thrive. And while there are cultures that simply replace architecture when it becomes obsolete (which I find beautifully intriguing) I doubt that would be the best approach in this context. This is why Archi-Re is based on the concept of “Review, Redefine, Redesign”.
When me and my husband had to move out of our first place together we spent many, many hours browsing the internet and implicitly the many specialized websites. As an architect I was rather vocal about what I could accept and what I could not. I’d get annoyed and start explaining, gesticulating almost with my entire body and draw sketch after sketch. After a while my husband got the hang of what type of apartment would rattle me and so he would save them simply to annoy me and make me rant. Love you too honey!
And so we moved. However as we plan to move again, the saga continued. One evening, browsing funda.nl I dreamed out loud:”Oh, and if I got my hands on all these beautiful houses from the center. If I would just have the funds to play with them, I’d buy them all and make them super duper cool!”.
At this particular moment in time I don’t have the funds to buy half a city and play with it. Though that would be seriously fun! I can however still play with them and put on paper (be it digital) all the crazy and beautiful ideas that I come up with.
The houses and apartments that trigger me are new constructions, mainly from the year 2000 on. I do not think it is acceptable that today, with all we have learned about architecture, to have mistakes representative of a first year student. It is not beneficial to design out of inertia and repeat the same outdated concepts and mistakes. Thus floor plans and spaces need to be constantly reviewed based on the thriving of the human beings using them. We grow and evolve culture and society through out history. And so, if at any point in time something proves not to perform at its proper capacity it needs to be redefined. Finally, in order to continue being used, it needs to be redesigned.
Archi-Re has its source in the “-Re” Houses. These are existing constructions, recent projects that had all the possible options for a better layout. Here, I review them, redefine their spaces and redesign them.