Semantics & Sensibilities

Is most architecture the outcome of a preconditioned sensibility?  


Architecture must understand the objective and subjective notions of dealing with aesthetic judgments. There is certainly an ocular bias and good design must look beyond that.

By nature or nurture, the creative eye is trained to affirm self-evident ways of seeing. It can be read as a cycle of events where the architecture is a search for external values to base a theory of form on and graduates to a formal or intellectual alignment. 

“I do find that there is a general, similar “look” that all of us are falling prey to … and that kind of palette of materials or that kind of semantic is very prevalent in most of the projects we see.” – Samira Rathod

Architecture is always unique for its inherent cultural or utilitarian value. And in most cases, architecture is not privy to objective appreciation or criticism. Our notions of good design are espoused in aesthetic judgements owing to the influence and power of its visual attributes. And more often than not, architecture excludes matters of taste and appeal from the conversation it tries to generate. But then how do we talk about beauty?

“The one thing that we as a jury had to come to terms with was the fact that we as Jurors and as Architects do carry a bias about the kind of aesthetic appeal, and the kind of architecture that we consider meritorious. Then you are forced to step back as an evaluator and ask, ‘Can I remove myself from it and really find value in something else that the project is offering?’ It may not be the kind of project that I would lend myself to or even enjoy but that becomes less and less important as long there is a sense of rigour, a sense of coherence and a sense of commitment that the author of the architecture is expressing. ” – Samira Rathod

While it is not necessary to subscribe to styles, it may be crucial to root architecture in absolutes such as Pragmatism, Harmony, Integrity and as such, all the while making space for individual preferences and matters of personal sensibilities.

“For one, I looked at ‘Originality’. There were some projects which were an efficient resolution of a fairly well-defined template and so I wanted to look at people who were making an original contribution.

The second thing I was looking for was ‘Integrity’ – that you do not have disparate elements and that there is a sense of all the elements belonging together in a way that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The third idea was that the work requires a ‘Spatial Character’ so that it beyond the intention of the architect in making a grand symbolic statement. The work then seems to have a life of its own irrespective of who the architect was. These were the three things that I was looking for.” – Prem Chandavarkar

While that may not be the valid way to look at things, the idea of semantics lies in the act of looking.

These notes will be deliberated upon in essays to be published on thinkmatter.in. If you wish to present a comment (views / counter-views), please write to us: think@matter.co.in