You might remember the start of your studies in the field of architecture. In the beginning your teatcher claimed that architecture is a language. You took part to the test where written words got visual counterparts in the minds of young students. Miraculously those visual forms were much alike. Word ”jylhä” got the shape of a mountain in most of the cases. With this test your teatcher tried to lead you to the world of universal ideas and shapes – to the world that has been there before the written laguage. It is something that can be experienced with a spine. We just have to bypass the brains and get a connection to the primitive part of ourselves.
Then on the history lessons you find out that this laguage of architecture has been used for thousands of years, through the history of mankind. It is something that belongs to the human nature. We can not live without it. It is our way to be here on this planet. It is a homo sapiens way.
On following lectures you also find out that the language of architecture has a certain vocabulary and a syntax. There are words and there is a structure and by using these we can create something that makes sense and is useful to us. It is undoubtly quite free language an it is open to different interpretations. This makes it very interesting and challenging topic to master.
If we understand this language, we can read the messages that buildings and cities deliver to us. Mostly and sadly when we observe our environment we read rude prosaic messages, but sometimes we might even hear fine poetry or music. It feels good. It makes us believe that there is hope and everything is in a right place.
If we know history well, we can connect the signs and symbols of the environment to the stories and legends happened a long time ago. The past starts to make sense. If we understand the present, we can notice the messages that resonate with the world today – messages that reach the minds of the people. It is truly a whole new world.
Contemporary is something that is happening right now. The word modern is commonly used in a missleading way. The right word is contemporary. Contemporary architecture mirrors its own time and tries to find a path towards future. This is why architects are fascinated about philosophy, technology, sociology, biology and so on. These fields of science light the prevailing darkness, and offer an glimpse to the life of tomorrow. To know things makes it easier to imagine. This is a major lesson: to know and to imagine. We need them both.
Where science works for knowing more, art opens our minds and break the customs we are too used to in our everyday life. Art allows us to see the world from a different perspective. If the picture of the real world seems to be a bit dimm and definetely too hazy, art gives us a chance to sharpen it and make it brighter to our senses. It gives us something to think about. It feeds our imagination. It inspires us.
I as an architect can not see any other way to be able to create contemporary architecture than to live in these both worlds and in a stream of this time. A contemporary architect has to catch a vision of what is happening and why it is happening right now. We need a certain amount of knowledge and we need to have creative imagination. Otherwise it is impossible to create something with a meaning in this time. Stories carry meanings and lessons inside them. Stories can be remembered. Storien have a value. Stories manifest purposes. Stories can bind us together as a society. Stories can make us feel good. Stories makes us to belong something bigger than us. Contemporary architecture should be a tool for story telling.
This is why contemporary architects should understand the architectural shapes, forms, methods and materials that define our time. You might wonder that are there really something specific in these days that makes it so different. What are those shapes? Take a look of cars for example. I bet you can make a difference between models and types. Ten years ago the were a bit different. Ten years from now they ar going to be different again – even sooner, because this evolution of forms is happening continuously. Something common is in the air right now and we all share it. It is in the forms, colours and so on. It is in a way we use the language – how we speak. You can not hear word ”nastaa” anymore, when someone likes something very much. Now we hear word ”cool” or ”himmee” instead. It is very hard to pin point this but it is definetely there. Is it Zeitgeist? We architects should catch the idea of the present and be able to formulate it with suitable materials and techniques with a manner that resonates this time and our society. Contemporary architect needs to have these skills: Idea of what to say and the way of how to say it – in this time and space.
We architects must be aware, that this gift of telling a stories is a powerfull and not so common ability among people these days. It is a valuable asset for today’s society that wants to evolve an achieve something great. Thus we need to be responsible and we have to know the price of this ability. We are working for the people and for the society and even more, for the whole planet.
Since the classical times architecture has been a tool for emperors, religious leaders, politicians and businessmen. Architects need them, but still we should maintain our freedom and not sell our souls for quick fame, money or power. Power corrupts everyone and especially delicate and artistic minds of architects are very vulnerable.
Now you have reached the point in your studies when it is time to find your own path to be a contemporary architect. What are those forms and materials that are tuned in the same wavelength with you and this time? What are those architectural offices and architects you ”dig” and why? What is ”cool” architecture and why? Can you tell us a story?
Janne Repo, arkkitehti SaFa Yliopettaja, rakennusarkkitehtikoulutuksen vastuuopettaja, Savonia AMK