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“Occupying Architecture: Between the Architect and the User”
by Katy Purviance on 12/31/08 @ 12:53:51 pm
Categories: Books | 567 words | 2435 views

I have been hungering for a book like this.

In our reviews at Harvard (your school too?), the critics often fall into ideological discussions. These are interesting because they make me wonder:

What about the person who will live in our buildings?
What about the people who will live and work in our buildings? Who will have to deal with our design decisions every day?

The user never makes an appearance in their discussions. Ideological theory is king.

Why is ideologocial anything more imporant than the people who will actually use the building?

I have asked this question. I have not received an answer. I like to think that as I move through the rest of my 3.5 year program, I’ll get an answer, and maybe a better appreciation for the purpose of the ideological discussion.

But, in the meantime, I need to satisfy myself that architecture cares about the people.

I just read about this book by Jonathan Hill called “Occupying Architecture: Between the Architect and the User”

Occupying Architecture: Between the Architect and the User

Jonathan Hill “Occupying Architecture: Between the Architect and the User”
Routledge | 1998-06-05 | ISBN: 0415168163 | 253 pages | PDF | 3,3 MB

Occupying Architecture explores the relationship between the architect, the user and architecture, revealing that architecture is not just a building, but that it is the relation between an object and its occupant.
This collection discusses how and why architectural production and discourse ignores the user, and focuses on what is absent from present debates and practice. This book proposes a complete reworking of the relations between design and experience to transform practices of the architect, and ways of seeing and using architecture.

I found this book in a small bookshop in Cambridge, England, and was immediately intrigued as an architecture student whose design philosophy is based in a user-needs-come-first approach. Hill’s selection of authors, including one of his own writings, is just as varied as the authors’ individual response to the challenge of “write about architecture and the user.”

Each article varies in its dissection of the profession as practice and application. Katerina Ruedi, for example, presents her resume, then dissects it in terms of cultural, educational, and social context. Lesley Naa Norle Lokko discusses architecture and a sense of place from a cultural and racial point of view, the cultural aspects of imagery, territory, and “response-ability” as a creative source and outlet. Hill’s own article indirectly jabs at the heart of New Urbanism, as this book came out in 1998, by making the distinction between “community” and “society”; one is physical, while the other is truly a product of commonalities or/of conflict. Muf Art and Architecture records the comments of the locals in one British neighborhood and uses these to compare and contrast the spatial and civic aspects of the surroundings.

Overall, Hill’s book encourages the reader to consider the client as a different faction than the user, and to own up to the differences between those of us getting the degrees and those having to tolerate our actions upon the built environment. It was not, as I’d expected, an environmental-behavior text, but rather an analysis of social forces at-large that are at work in our surroundings. I also recommend Andrew Ross’ book on “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Values in Celebration FL” for anecdotal relation to Hill’s article.

I’m going to check this out as soon as I return to Cambridge next week!

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