Which one is mine?

Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul.

Ernest Dimnet

Every day I am surrounded by buildings growing towards the sky.  These buildings will house human beings, their spirits, hopes, dreams and thoughts.  Are the buildings going to enrich their lives or reduce them?  To me they seem more and more like hives – tightly bound, completely organised.  They are closed tight against the world and within them, the doors are locked tight against neighbours.

Within these walls, with views of other walls and other buildings, do we have a chance for the expansion of our horizons? Within these buildings we need to constrain ourselves. We fear disturbing the neighbours, so we moderate our anger and our joy.  No dancing in high heels to loud music, no screaming our frustrations at the walls.  Our children learn to be quiet. No running to let off energy in the corridors or up and down the stairwells.  They could interrupt someone’s sleep, TV watching or dinner. We lessen our creativity. Common walls cannot be painted with our visions or joyful colours.

These buildings block the world from our view, and the apartment doors block us from our neighbours, and are locked to create some hope of privacy.  Our gardens are not filled with plants that we have chosen, but by those the body corporate employs someone else to choose.  Our BBQ area is supervised by the windows of one hundred apartments.  No long lazy afternoons sitting beside the BBQ, a few cool ales in hand, chatting with our friends, watching the children run and play on the grass. Someone else may need the area, or may object to children running on the grass or to the music we have in the background.


These building then begin to control our lives and our expressions of life.  Where in them can we find the space to expand our souls? To give our children the freedom to play, run, sing and explore their world?

These buildings are also ‘one generation’ buildings, not intended to be refurbished, because their structures are too both rigid and too poorly constructed for renovation and renewal.  They are intended to be torn down with 20-25 years, making way for more modern, probably ever higher structures.  The cannot grow organically the way a house can, in response to teh needs of the family; with a room added here, a verandah there, and an attic under the roof. Gardens and trees planted within the grounds are short-term, not intended to provide shade, fruit, food and beauty for long.

Modern architecture in communities where people are seen as factory fodder, where children’s role in life is to study and achieve and where profit becomes the highest aim, loses everything rich and exciting that it could be.

Even with single family dwellings, it seems they are constructed with the same constraining principles in mind.  Few windows, very small openings to the outer world; surrounded by other buildings; no gardens, no trees, no comfortable shade; and no colour.  These buildings do not invite us to relax and refresh ourselves after work. They don’t give opportunties to stamp an individual or creative touch on them.  They don’t inspire interest, either in themselves as pieces of ‘living’ art, or in the outer world.

Why do buildings have to be like this?  Architecture can help people move into comfort after a long day at work. It can set the space for imagination and exploration.  It can allow creativity to flow. We may initially desire to escape, but if all we can see is more of the same, there is nowhere to escape to.  Instead these buildings gradually imbue us with their prisonesque feelings, finally limiting our physical and, eventually, emotional expressions.