The original conceit of architecture was to lessen the risk that nature brought upon humanity, protecting us against the cold, the heat, storms and predators alike. Over time, architecture became a means of facilitation, representation and communication of cultural identity rather than simply protective devices for humans.
More recently, architecture has turned into means of making money, entering into the realm of speculation where architecture became about investment and the prospect of making money off the design – there we have risk, but in an entirely different meaning of the word. Now, investing into the wrong design at the wrong time can turn into a risk for the future. Over-designed buildings became part of a financial strategy that masked any relationship in architecture’s original intent, the creation of space that serves humanity.
In one of my favorite books of 2009, Life Inc., Douglas Rushkoff writes of how humanity has come to resemble a huge corporation and, alongside it, architecture has become a soul-less, resale-value driven venture – a profession where the generic taste of the potential buyer became the driving force behind design intent. Considerations such as personal taste, lifestyle-suitability, and the needs of the client are no longer the primary considerations they once were.
The recession – itself partly a result of the use and abuse of architecture, risking for the sake of profit – has taught us the lesson that architecture should not be reduced to speculative financial constrictions but must act as a private, personal, and individual reflection on one’s spatial and lifestyle needs. We must make sure there is a recalibration of values once we are out of the downturn again.