National Architecture Week

“AIA says from April 12th to April 18th, we celebrate architecture as a source of reinvention, recognizing the architect’s profound ability to reinvent an industry through design, a community through a building’s purpose, and the beauty and function of architecture itself through restoration and historic preservation.”

It’s National Architecture week!

Though dictionary defines architecture as a profession of designing buildings and building environments, I believe architecture is much more than the walls and ceiling, and the surroundings. Architecture is the story of an era, it’s a time capsule of a culture. More than anything else, architecture is an enclosure that deeply affects the human behavior. Architecture has  power to evoke emotions. We don’t have to be architects to experience architecture- we transition from one space to another throughout the day, throughout our lives, submitting ourselves to the effects each space has on us never once realizing that we are being influenced by the way those spaces are built.

My favorite building.. Buildings tell stories, but which ones talked to me? There isn’t one to pick from the life spanning a good three decades and plus, and there isn’t only one to talk to when every little detail of a space tells a story. The draft of cold air I felt around my neck and back while visiting a custom built home up the hills might tell me a story of a bad design and poor insulation, or it can tell me a horror story ala Paranormal Activity. The house I live in is not custom, but the architect has designed a masterpiece in fifteen-hundred SF – the walls, windows and sun angles are perfect to make any season, and any time of the day a delightful time. It’s hard to believe, but I have taken pictures and analyzed, this itty-bitty home of mine has drawn a lot of inspiration from the Hearst Castle.

Speaking of Hearst Castle, I didn’t visit Hearst Castle for more than a decade of living in California- but when I did, I was glad I did. The time spent with my daughters talking about Julia Morgan, and that moment when husband picked up a book about Julia Morgan as a Christmas gift.. and then that feeling that Gatsby might have lived like that, and imagining him throwing the piles of shirts on Daisy in one of those rooms, and then dancing with Daisy while that piano player played on a romantic piece under that chandelier. I could see Gatsby shot in the Neptune pool..those little opulent details Julia Morgan worked on, the grandeur.. it’s all reminiscent of a palace of an era not so long ago. My Instagram is filled with images of Hearst Castle..

It’s been a year of spiritual journey for us. Strictly architecturally speaking. I have visited a total of six Missions on California, and every time I visit a Mission, even though I am not religious, I go in a trance mode, and I connect with a force bigger than what encloses me. I believe Architecture induces that feeling. The site selection – In Mission San Antonio De Padua, you can lose yourself sitting in those hallways, listening to nothing but nature and your body. The vaulted ceilings and those double doors, and those corridors- In San Luis Obispo, the vaulted ceilings with that melodious music playing in the church will transport you to another world. I had high expectations about the Carmel Mission after visiting almost all of them to Santa Barbara to Carmel, but it fell short- may be the site is to be blamed? It’s nestled in the city, parking space is a commodity, and the visitors mostly come to get a great picture taken with the Mission backdrop. Sort of Europe, but local.

Last year, the last stop of the year was at the Cathedral of Christ the light. Built by SOM, this is a modern Cathedral, not your European backdrop. We went there right on time for the mass, so we decided to walk around the building, and visit the gift stop a little before exploring the building. The ladies at the shop told us about the Mission of the Church and all the other things except the architecture- I didn’t expect them to. But then, husband found a book with pictures during construction, and an article by the architect Craig Hartman. There was my Christmas gift! We visited the church after the mass, and I sat there trying to imagine the sails -the boat- and the religious story it’s trying to tell behind in that cleverly assembled building of wood and glass. The Seismic details were an interesting read, and I did learn something more than I learned studying for my Structural Systems exam!

Pasadena City Hall is another building I love! I have had ideas of getting married on Santa Monica beach, and then in Las Vegas casino – but this is THE place I want to get married at. I want to wear a flowy white dress and get my picture done at that staircase. I want to take a picture with my husband in the hallways with nothing but darkness as the backdrop. I want to sit down near that fountain and lose myself looking at the moon play hide and seek in the arches. It’s a building that makes me want to be a bride. Not a blushing bride of twenty, but a thoughtful thirty..It might be the colors, it might be the design details, or it might be the sun angle- every building has the capability to invoke a desire in you.

I tell my children that exploring a building with me is payback for all those Disney movies I endured in their early childhood days – The older one tells me it’s not a punishment to join me – she enjoys walking in these buildings, posing for me and sometimes imagining a career in engineering or architecture.. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I have enjoyed singing along Elsa as much as they have done!


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