Aesthetics and Architecture
A Worldview of Extensionality
While walking on the edge of my university campus, where the educative grounds end and the roads funneling rush hour begin, something high above the city life captures my attention. From a distance, neon orange vests of workers are seen meandering atop a rustic grey mile high crane. The bright attire functions as beacons for their safety, announcing to the rest of the world “I am here”. My eyes are able to follow the luminous reflections cast upon the encasing metallic framework as they move about. They’re like fireflies exploring an empty ribcage, in hopes that a living space is salvageable from the slowly decaying matter. Though there is a difference with human preference, at least where I reside. Instead of inhabiting vacated premises, we bulldoze over the past and erect the contemporary.
The construction worker is often compared to the worker bee as an example of relentless manufacturing and team coordination. I’d like to offer an alternative metaphor for contemplation which correlates to the everyday worker and labourer, but hopefully exemplifies purpose rather than practice. Consider the cell, the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all living organisms. We usually think of cells as “the building blocks of life” and for good reason. Take cells within the human body, for example, they work in replication and unison to construct substantial organs. They produce these larger organic apparatuses so that the cells and future variations of cells can more efficiently navigate themselves through the human body to realize their respective objectives.
By now the imagery may begin to sound similar. In the same way, the construction worker aims to create architecture: larger “organs”, if you will, fashioned from human ingenuity combined with inorganic and organic material. These architectural constructs function as dwelling spaces to help us, the “cells”, achieve a particular collective or individual objective. For me, taking this perspective adds a slice of understanding to our place in nature. I can no longer help but see roads as veins and cars as blood cells, with perhaps the city as the central beating heart. What intrigues me most about the history of human construction is the apparent phenomenon of ideology impregnating architecture.
The simplicity and grace embodied in Japanese Buddhist temples are a reflection of the monks practising their philosophies within them. The Egyptian pyramids are colossal monoliths echoing their people’s glory into the future and proudly demonstrating their sophistication in astrology by perfectly aligning with Orion’s belt. The Roman colosseum resembles the intricate detailing found in shields and helmets, decorations for a soldier’s pride, enclosing a battlefield for their most powerful warriors. The list goes on. Today, the rectangular skyscrapers and grid-pattern streets are so for the convenience of paperwork and management. They parallel a precision in practicality we’ve come to solely value.
With each of these examples, I can’t say whether there is something fundamentally wrong with any of the ideologies, instead, it seems to be a matter of taste. However, I can see how some ended up being beneficial to the culture while others detrimental. So then, like any other tool, we must be open to revising ideas with an intention for sustainability. Only that will determine the type of experiences the little cells that we are will have within the aesthetic organs that we create.