Architects, the Visual World, and Real Life

March 27, 2009

The DeliveryDemon was half-listening to Radio 4 a few days ago when a startling statement made her sit up and take notice. Architects don’t design buildings as places where people can go about their lives. The fact itself wasn’t surprising, the shock came from hearing it stated explicitly in a programme about architecture. Architects consider themselves to be artists, not artisans, and the goal is an accolade awarded for visual drama, not an award for practical use. What have architects delivered as a result? The DeliveryDemon has experienced all of the following:

  • Vast open-plan offices where temperatures, noise-levels and light conditions are wrong for most of the people who work there
  • Buildings given a ‘buzz’ by the removal of sound insulation material, turning them into concentration-sapping echo-chambers
  • A long curving wall in an underground canteen, which focused the chat and clatter of the diners on to a group of tables where conversation was impossible
  • Collections of buildings which funnel the winds and turn streets into litter-churning wind tunnels
  • Staircases so inaccessible you need a lift to go up a single floor
  • Sealed buildings where the temperature and airflow are totally dependent on electrical / mechanical intervention.

Todays’s architects aim to deliver visual interest to observers of a building, not practical functionality to the users. The result is non-functional, energy-hungry buildings. There’s something badly wrong with those priorities.