Simon Fowler's Blog

Relational Architecture?

Posted by Simon on June 6, 2010

What do you think this is?

It’s an apartment building. Those are steps to people’s front doors.

The architect’s vision for it was “industrial chic”. He wanted this place “to have the elegance of intelligence. And the beauty of the happiness of the people who will live in this place.” He wants to help residence become a piece of art. And as apartment complexes go, it is very, very cool. I loved this converted shipyard building, with a white, bright open atria and big everyday objects placed around the public place (that orb-looking thing on the left is a lightbulb). And actually I loved clean minimalism.

I’m an architectural ignoramus, so I refrain from judgment on the architect (Philippe Starck) or the character or wellbeing of people who choose to live in such a place. And if you are an architect, or know about living spaces, I genuinely invite you to educate me.

My first reaction was, “Wow!, this is cool!”. My second was, “this is an apartment building?”. Then I started wondering how architecture and the design of living space helps or hinders relationships? A swimming pool, business center, and community room all provide common space for people to meet. But overall it seemed built for individuals, or individual families, not communities. … Now having read that last sentence I think of suburban areas where there is no common space you could walk to, or even drive to. And even many urban areas don’t seem designed for people to meet. So this place, Parris Landing, seems to have many advantages.

I’d love to know how architecture influences relationships. Or whether it’s simply a matter of who the people are who live there; maybe no matter what the design is, if the right people are there, community and social life can blossom?

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