It goes without saying that I liberally rant about the superficial, ego-laden sect of architecture that I am so ethically opposed to. And chances are, that will not be changing any time soon. However, I will concede that occasionally I am all but overtaken by the simple beauty of some works—and their ability to evoke emotion in an artful way. Viewing this short film, The Third & The Seventh, by Alex Roman reminded me of this concept: that while beauty is indeed subjective, we as humans are innately moved by beauty. For me, this film evoked a sort of melding of disciplines: suddenly the lines between art, architecture, and music became blurred—and I was simply immersed in a collage of forms, textures, light, shadow, sound, and life.
If you can spare twelve minutes of your life, prepare for mind-numbing bliss…
Part of my love-hate relationship with architecture stems from my own personal experiences—being greatly affected, emotionally and viscerally, by my physical surroundings. I can say without a doubt that I have firsthand knowledge of architecture-induced sensory overload. I’ve experienced everything from nausea to tears of joy and pain to panic attacks to hairs standing on end to pure and utter bliss—all as a result of my surroundings. While my reactions may be an example of extreme visceral responses, certainly this phenomenon is a human condition, albeit to varying degrees. The sensory experience is a crucial aspect of how we encounter architecture, in that all of our senses are utilized in perceiving the essence of a place. It is not only about vision, or what we see—but about smell, acoustics, tactile qualities, and how the volumetric properties of a space make us feel.
The validity of this multi-sensory experience was brought to the forefront of my mind after reading this article about blind architects. What? Blind architects? How is that possible? The two architects profiled in this article had been practicing architecture prior to losing their sight, so while they had foundations from which to stand on, the fact that they could continue working is testament to the legitimacy and importance of invoking the use of the other senses while designing. Perhaps (and likely) the loss of sight forced these architects to truly hone and become more aware of their other senses, as well as how a building evokes emotion based on senses other than vision.
Beauty is not easily defined, as it is very subjective, and with multiple senses in action as we perceive, different people are bound to have different reactions. But there is no denying that we as humans seek beauty—in landscapes, in music, in art, in architecture. Beauty alone does not make good architecture, but beauty is not irrelevant.
And after all of the sensory overload I have personally encountered, I will never restrict my perception of beauty to that which my eyes can see.