Juhani Pallasma: The Task of Architecture

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (1601-2) Caravaggio

The timeless task of architecture is to create embodied and lived existential metaphors that concretise and structure our being in the world. Architecture reflects, materialises and eternalises ideas and images of ideal life. Buildings and towns enable us to structure, understand and remember the shapeless flow of reality and, ultimately, to recognise and remember who we are. Architecture enables us to perceive and understand the dialectics of permanence and change, to settle ourselves in the world, and to place ourselves in the continuum of culture and time.
In its way of representing and structuring action and power, societal and cultural order, interaction and separation, identity and memory, architecture is engaged with fundamental existential questions. All
experience implies the acts of recollecting, remembering and comparing. An embodied memory has an essential role as the basis of remembering a space or a place. We transfer all the cities and towns that we have visited, all the places that we have recognised, into the incarnate memory of our body. Our domicile becomes integrated with our self-identity; it becomes part of our own body and being.
In memorable experiences of architecture, space, matter and time fuse into one singular dimension, into the basic substance of being, that penetrates our consciousness. We identify ourselves with this space, this place, this moment, and these dimensions become ingredients of our very existence. Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this mediation takes place through the senses.
In 1954, at the age of 85, Frank Lloyd Wright formulated the mental task of architecture in the following words: What is needed most in architecture today is the very thing that is most needed in life- Integrity. just as it is in a human being, so integrity is the deepest quality in a building … If we succeed, we will have done a great service to our moral nature – the psyche – of our democratic society … Stand up for integrity in your building and you stand for integrity not only in the life of those who did the building but socially a reciprocal relationship is inevitable.
This emphatic declaration of architecture’s mission is even more urgent today than at the time of its writing 50 years ago. And this view calls for a full understanding of the human condition.

Originally published in The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses
2015 | John Wiley & Sons | Chichester

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