Architecture ⇌ humans ©


We have often said : the function of architecture is mostly unseen and misunderstood. Moreover, it is often disregarded when highlighted. From the perspective of human condition, that is a real problem.


A building’s architectural value in regard to function can hardly be judged by the appearance of its envelop. Hence, to truly get a good perspective one has to experience a building physically within its walls and outwardly as much as visually. Of course, its impression to onlookers in the city does play a part in the overall experience for these structures can occupy a very wide footprint and massive volumes of the city’s environment. But what good is a pretty skin if inside you feel sick ? And likewise, what good is clever design if its outer shell casts a negative shadow on the city and its people ? Nailing the ideal design is an art, and successfully achieved, it will create an upturn in everyone’s quality of life.

A bad design can kill you slowly

When the citizens come into play — or ‘human beings’ if we’re going to be consequential in our statement — design is everything. People tend to forget that architecture is first and foremost responsible for creating living spaces. Aesthetics is only a small portion of its intended function. What this implies is fundamental. Whether the architecture is your home, your work place, your transportation infrastructures or your leisures environment, it is where you breath and live day in and day out. In fact, everyone is surrounded by architecture nearly 24h a day seven days a week. Good design will make you healthier and bad design will kill you slowly. One day, the masses will understand how critically important this artistic discipline truly is. Ask experts like Phyllis Lambert how architecture makes or brakes cities.

The balance of power

In north american society today, the balance of power and influence with decisions in architecture lies with the owners, unfortunately. In other words, the person or the organization owning the building/land and the rights on construction will largely decide which quality of architecture will be put forth in a project. That is a real problem. There are instances when individuals, city officials and even laws can influence the outcome. But in the end, the owner’s architectural culture and his willingness to pay for quality will determine the outcome of the new building or any updates on existing structures. And that has huge implications for the city, its environment and its future.

The first and foremost denominator

I have strong opinions when it comes to my home town Montreal. The owners are just not held liable for bad design or for bad ethics in conservation. The Montreal City Hall administration’s desperate plea for investments and revenues weakens the structure of regulation and direction in urban design. What will devastate my city in the medium and long terme is the unwillingness of politicians to impose high standards in architecture and heritage conservation. No one is distracted by what is going on in the real-estate boom occurring here. I do not invent any notions. In urban design and architecture, the same issues live on, demonstrated throughout centuries, even millennials. No one is attracted to cities that do not offer quality of life through quality urban design and architecture. They are first and foremost denominators in living and working space success or failure. No one wants to live and work in poor dysfunctional environments. Poor architecture and poor design kills cities.


Montreal has lost six historical heritage buildings in 2016 for lack of appropriate maintenance, appropriate renovations and/or fire protection. The Robillard building fire. The Mount Stephen Club House destruction. Public Baths.

Currently, Montreal has nearly 200 abandoned structures, including 41 historical heritage buildings. And there are no particular municipal rules or bylaws that forces developers, architects, owners or entrepreneurs to consider sustainable conservation techniques or sustainable architecture. Except for one that promotes heritage preservation but without consequences if behaviours of owners for project finality do not respect the said directives. Worse still, some owners seem to have developed an art in arranging for sudden massive fires when their heritage building is worth more as a pile of rubble. Structures in moderne cities shouldn’t just be seen as physical buildings or infrastructures, they should also include effective politics and laws for conservation and good design. The People and their history is the fundamental structure here. In this perspective, architecture needs to live up to this value if it is going to be serving the people, the very essence our cities are built on.

Words and images : Eric Soucy

All rights reserved fi3200/2017@Medium architecture

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