What do you desire?

Nathalie Weadick, IAF Director.

At the IAF our goal is to grow the desire for architecture and Open House Dublin is an accessible and creative way to achieve this.

Architecture is often associated with the production of material objects that are contingent on desire, taste, technology, politics, and the economy. In cities it is not the public who are commissioning architecture, but property developers, large private corporations, and local government, that are responsible for shaping our built environment. However, Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell (Grafton Architects, 2020 Pritzker Prize Winners) always say that everyone deserves great architecture even if they don’t commission it. They are right.

Architecture, as a practice, is concerned with far more than form, image and market; it responds to a human desire for a place to live and grow (emotionally and intellectually), one that provides a support for human potential and responsibilities. It is through this focus on the particular qualities of a particular space at a particular time, that much larger social and cultural themes can be illuminated. The way we design and make architecture is not merely an indicator of aesthetic taste nor a commercial transaction, but a social phenomenon that both mirrors and shapes how we think and act.

This proposition for a reading of architecture and desire is far more provocative and meaningful. It asserts that architecture will always extend beyond the look of a building in its capacity to embody, to embrace, to engender life and dreams. Now, at this moment in which the ways we live, work and think are in flux, we should take time to consider and question how we frame our understanding of architecture and its relationship to people, culture, society, and the planet. By addressing the immaterial as well as the material, we can expand the possibilities of architecture to advocate for desire for common good, rather than to benefit the desires of the individual.

Forty years ago, architect Kevin Roche (1922-2019) said in his acceptance speech for the Pritzker Architecture Prize:

“That Architecture is an art we have the evidence of history; that it is an art in our time we cannot yet judge. We can only desire to make it so. […] It is so easy to forget that we build buildings for people—people who must see them and people who must use them. It is so easy to forget that those people are individuals with a variety of needs and it is hard to remember that they are not just numbers. ” (Kevin Roche, 1982.)

Roche believed that the spaces, which architects produce, play a crucial role in supporting, shaping and framing lives. Deep from within his desire (the architect) to make good architecture, he reconciled the desire of his client (the individual) with the desires of humanity (the common good). In his unflagging pursuit to unite these three, and he did successfully many times in practice, he knew it was not always attainable every time, but we must always try.

Nathalie Weadick, IAF Director

Image right: Film still with Kevin Roche from We Built this City/New York, a film by Dyehouse Films, commissioned by (c) Irish Architecture Foundation in 2015.


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