Architecture as Transition


Only recently the thought occurred to me that if I were to make a proposition as to what the definition of Architecture might be…or to attempt to draw a distinction between Architecture and architecture, or Architecture and building, it might be that Architecture is artfully orchestrated formal, spatial, and experiential transition, whereas most buildings’ transitions are rudimentary, lacking themes, composition, coordination, and orchestration.

Transition, not just in Architecture, but in life, when really developed, can grow to occupy the larger portion of one’s actions, attitude, framework, or design.  A well-orchestrated transition gives one time and perspective, primes cognition, behavior, and expectations, and generally makes it easier and more enjoyable to navigate one social and physical environment.  At the ideal extreme, our thoughts, actions, artifacts, and environments become components of a fluid, aesthetic choreography which guides us through our days.  With this idea in mind, and looking out upon the world of suburbs, shopping centers, etc…it strikes me how little (and unartful) transition there is in our contemporary environments.  This is all the more disconcerting because our fast-changing lifestyles, technologies, and contexts are, to a degree, perpetually foreign to us.  Given this, if anything, we need more transitions and more masterfully orchestrated transitions, not less.

Too often it is logistically difficult to achieve well-orchestrated transitions, and in transition’s stead, we substitute iconography – which for the purposes of this musing, can be understood as a shortcut to transition.  It accomplishes the shifting of a person’s or group’s attention or action from one mode to another, but it does it in a more jarring, militaristic, one-dimensional way.  It is like an on/off switch instead of a dimmer switch.  The home as icon, the work place as icon, the retail outlet store as icon.  We are less human and more cog because of the way we handle ourselves and this includes denying ourselves proper experiential transitions.  We march instead of dancing even when we don’t have to do so.  Supplanting transitions with iconography creates abrupt experiential shifts and their overuse as we currently employ them strikes me as unhealthy.

One last related thought is that Architecture, as opposed to building, in being well-orchestrated transitions, is inherently theatrical.

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