Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Architecture in Everyday Life (D. Upton)

"The everyday comprises 'seemingly unimportant activities'. Or it is 'a set of functions which connect and join together systems that might appear to be distinct' (Lefebvre) [...].

For one architect, 'The everyday is that which remains after one has eliminated all specialized activities' (Harris). According to another, everyday space lies 'in between such defined and physically definable realms as the home, the workplace, and the institution, [it] is the connective tissue that binds everyday lives together' (Crawford) [...].

Architecture is inescapably concrete and it forms the fabric and the setting of everyday life. Consequently, to approach everyday life through architecture - architecture with a lower-case a, understood in its broadest sense to encompass the entire material world (or "cultural landscape") that people make and think - is to be forced to pin down, in ways too often lacking in theories of the quotidian, the precise ways in which everyday life is experienced and the specifics of its relationships to other aspects of life and landscape. So architecture's materiality makes it a natural conduit to the specificity of everyday life. [...]

Unlike, say, literary critics or sociologists, who study the works, actions, and values of other people at a distance, builders intervene directly in everyday life. This means that architects must examine their own professional practices and social identities as well as those of the people for whom they build. This habit of self-scrutiny long antedated Architectural interest in the everyday, so called. Since the beginnings of European-American professionalization two centuries ago, architects (expanding that term to include landscape architects and urban designers) have struggled to differentiate themselves from builders and clients and to establish a clear social identity that would give them the cultural authority to dominate the building market and control the shaping of the landscape. They have failed. Many nonarchitects - builders, clients, critics - continue to claim some authoritative knowledge of the field and decline to grant architects the absolute authority they seek. [...]

The idea of the everyday forces us to acknowledge that Architecture is part of architecture, that designers are a part of the everyday world, not explorers from a more civilized society or detached doers for clients and to cities."

Upton, Dell (2002) "Architecture in Everyday Life". In: New Literary History, Vol. 33, No. 4, pp. 707-723. The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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