Inlets carved in sand by the sea

Shaping the buildings that shape us

How many of the problems we encounter in life are of our own making? The outworking of possibly flawed ideas, observations or conclusions from the past that, over the years, developed into something quite different from their original intention (Notes One). Living within systems created by humans, increasingly detached from nature and its wisdom, it’s interesting to imagine where that might lead.

Isn’t it the case that environments tend to shape us? All the activities, expectations and ideas around us effectively informing our choices: the kinds of things we might accept or get drawn into. As if we each read the world, from our perspective, and plot our course within it. Now, though, it’s seeming such an abstract, distant, remote, confusing kind of reality – something quite difficult to read or fully understand (Notes Two).

It must be an incredible responsibility to shape the realities others will be walking into, existing within, and living through. That we would be creating the environment for others to learn from and construct their lives around: drawing on the knowledge that’s presented; building on the foundations as they’re offered; discussing things using the terms that’ve been set.

Like Winston Churchill’s comment, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us”, sometimes it really seems we’re living within this strange handing-down of ideas, forms and structures. As if those before us “always” determine what they’ll tell us and the relative importance they’ll assign each element of the story – generation upon generation passing on some things and letting others fall away (Notes Three).

If society’s like a structure we walk into, what kinds of values, priorities and activities are being offered? Is this building more of a prison or a bustling, creative university? If “this” is the place we live, get our ideas about life, and pick up the threads as they’re handed to us, it’s fascinating to imagine what that conversation actually “is” and what we’re likely to make of it.

Doesn’t being in any kind of building effectively shape our feelings, perspectives and interactions? What we’ll experience in any particular room; how we pass between them, and all we see on the way; the encounters we have with others through the ebb and flow of the building’s functions. As if each part were a living, breathing structure we fill with our purpose and our presence in this ongoing dance of “life” and human activity.

Much as this relates to architecture, society or personal psychology, don’t we generally experience life through our place within it, perception of it, and the thoughts that’s bringing to mind? As if, passing through life, we gather up meaning to grasp where we stand and what our options might be. Each living within the structure they’ve made of their minds, relationships, and understanding of the world.

Art, architecture or philosophy can sometimes seem like distant, abstract comments on “reality” (Notes Four); in other ways, they seem capable of offering an interesting sense of what it might mean to be human.

Notes and References:

Note 1: How much do intentions matter?
Note 1: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 1: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 2: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 2: Treating people like sims?
Note 2: Reading into social realities?
Note 3: Passing on what’s important
Note 3: The value of a questioning attitude?
Note 3: Olds meets new, sharing insight
Note 4: Aesthetic value of nature
Note 4: Art as a way to subvert or inspire
Note 4: Living as a form of art

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