• 05 Oct 2020

World Architecture Day

Is Architecture Necessary in the Consumer Age?

Goethe described architecture as 'frozen music' in the Enlightenment period, but what about Architecture in the Consumer Age? Is it just a commodity, just a product, like so much else?  Is architecture necessary beyond itself? I believe it is, as much, if not more, than music and poetry are important to us beyond just existing.
We humans need to eat, and a place to live. We need protection from harm. We need some measure of freedom. So I am not writing today to say architecture matters more than life, freedom and food, but a place to live; and architecture is part of what makes humans being human. Architecture is, and must continue to be, a part of our culture, as much as Mozart and Heaney are.
Ever since we humans cleared a space in a forest to lay log upon log, or stone upon stone in our first village, we created architecture. At our best, architects are poetic pragmatists who have found their forest clearing. Working together in our Institute we can be like a great oak tree, anchored deep down and reaching far out. A place to gather and share. A place to develop collective purpose. To dialogue not monologue. A place to avoid partisanship and propaganda. Where ideas rather than ideology rule. Where the art and science of architecture has brains as well as beauty. Where teaching and practice support and sustain each other. Where conservation means more than respectful restoration, and can encompass renewal, reinterpretation and transformation. Where architecture is a response and not just a statement, or just pictorial eye candy. Rather a synthesis of humankind and nature. Not just be in nature, but be of nature. 
We know for many people that architecture is like a closed box. We have to find the key and have a dialogue between colleagues and community. A dialogue of social need, space, place and nature. An architecture that helps, rather than hinders, to make human beings human.
We are at an important juncture regarding architects present and future roles as a profession, as teachers, and as individuals in society. As early as possible next year, I will organise a separate special conference to help frame our professional direction and those future roles for Irish architects and architecture. 
At its best, architecture is like good music and insightful poetry. It makes physical what is elusive - function, culture and time. Celebrate Architecture Day today, you are the essential part of it. 

Ciaran O’Connor FRIAI
RIAI President 2020-2021