I was an instant celebrity at a garden party today because of this blog. It wasn’t because anyone there had ever read it but because writing this blog about something important to me requires my doing some basic research. With even a little research on a subject one soon knows more than the average person and by writing a blog the most salient points needing discussion bubble to the surface and become clarified in ones mind. It then is easy to talk with ease and conviction.
Architecture has intrigued me for years, in part because it frequently annoys me so much. I rarely go on my daily walks without cursing at architects but now I try to curtail this repetitive cursing because it makes me into an annoying conversational companion. Walking down my local streets requires ducking around poorly placed light poles and literally squeezing through places on the sidewalk if a single passerby happens along. And getting from our local Rapid Transit system platform to the local supermarket a hundred meters away, requires walking some four hundred meters which makes it distinctly more inconvenient than necessary. All of this inconvience endured hundreds of times every day because of some unnecessary and remotely located concret block decorative walls placed by some stupid architect. If one is physically handicapped or carrying more than a few groceries it becomes very difficult. It is clearly poorly laid out design by an architect who thought his design looked good on paper but it doesn’t work well and that’s why I insist that architects be required to use their productions. Architecture isn’t for architects enjoyment while sitting in their office it’s for peoples use. Architecture isn’t for architects it’s for people. Buildings are for use by people.
Architects should be required to live or work with their completed structures for at least a month after they are in full operation so they can profit from their success and more importantly learn from their mistakes of judgment. Just walking through a newly completed structure isn’t enough; a month is the shortest time of repeated exposure to an egregious error to really start hating the inconvenience it causes.
I was pontificating about these annoyances to a visiting professor of mechanical engineering from Germany and one from UC Berkeley. They seemed to be interested well beyond simple courtesy. I brought up the problems of constructing a civilization based on structures designed not just for 100 years but for 10,000 years. My concept for a dome was accepted after I detailed how it might be done with laser cut granite stones. They seemed to agree that the irregular stones needed for my domes could now be cut to the necessary precision and my method of erecting them into position would work. I also described my transport system based on electric-powered barges using overhead electric wires like trams for electric trains, which was also received without scorn.
Everyone was listening in on these peregrinations and telling me that a world-famous architect-historian from UC Berkeley was coming to the party. However, by the time he arrived an hour later things had moved on and we never got to talk very much but he did ask me one very pertinent question, which needs to be dealt with much better than I have done. “Why does anyone care about 10,000 years in the future?” It is a good question, of course, and a legitimate one even from a retired professor who had trained thousands of architecture students. It is a question I would have expected from one of his teenage students, but it must be answered in a way that is acceptable to everyone, even university professors.
“Why does anyone care about 10,000 years in the future?”
I want human beings to survive because I am a human being. I want people to do well and enjoy their lives because I have a fellow-feeling of enjoyment when they succeed. That might seem to be limited to present humans, but it is also easy to enjoy looking at the Brooklyn bridge and to appreciate the efforts those builders put forth in constructing it and the pleasure innumerable people have had while crossing over it. I look out almost every day and see the Golden Gate bridge and feel pleasure at its being there and my friends tell me they feel that pleasure also. I haven’t seen The Great Wall of China but I know people who have and there is a fellow-feeling for the pride of those local people whose ancestors built it and for their accomplishment and a sorrow for the struggles and losses experienced by those ancient people. Surely if we can project our human minds to these old human structures and the humans who made them we can project our empathy into the future. We can only do what we are capable of doing to make those future people’s lives better but we can take empathitic pleasure in doing these things while we do them knowing we are giving others pleasure.
I am a human being and I want human beings to be happy.