What is beauty?

What is beauty? can we say something more than only taste on image quality? That is what this story on architecture is about.

Once I was asked (the office I worked for at the time) to make an oversight on what the special architectural/image quality was in a specific neighborhood in Amsterdam. It would be used by the city council to determine what the image quality of the neighborhood is, so they can make local legislation on how to build. With it they inform citizens how to build or make an extension to their house, what color to paint it, etc.

What I did is describing the architecture, ensemble quality, how the houses are made in a certain style and what is appropriate for that style. Look how houses form a neighborhood, how a street is ended, how cars, bicycles and walking people find there way, how parking is solved and how these thing influence the image of the street.

Also adding to the quality of a neighborhood, and with that to the buildings, is the differentiation of buildings. Some shops and for example a library or a school add to the quality. I remember looking around in a city with a friend, and strange enough we saw that the quality of the pavement says something about the quality of the buildings along that road. In the beginning you think it doesn’t matter, and we didn’t realize it till we walked into another neighborhood and we saw the difference.

Having done this, I found that talking about the beauty of a building was not about taste, but about the condition of the building in its context. How the concept of the building fits the architectural style, how it relates to the people in the street and to the users or inhabitants of the building. What I think is important to make beautiful architecture is give a building meaning, embed it in the context and have an eye for detail, structure and texture. I like duality, ambiguity, hiding and revealing.

Quality of image, beauty of architecture is for me not only the beauty of the building, how it is designed on a drawing, but also how the surroundings fit the concept, are the surroundings also designed, does the building fits the place and has meaning (which can change in time). On the level of the building itself one can look for the detail, the material use, structure of the material, colors of the different materials fitting together, pure or eclectic in its style.

 

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