Every day we move through life likely paying little attention to the buildings we encounter, the parks we play at, and all the spaces in between. When thinking about architecture, it’s important to recognize that architecture isn't just about buildings, but our built environment.
To understand architecture, it’s imperative to recognize that architecture is a culmination of both art and science in a built form. There is a fundamental need to understand the physics of what makes a column transmit snow loads from a roof, down through the building, and to the footings resting upon the soil. But just as important is the architect’s ability to create form that functions for people, give beauty to structure, and connect with its surrounding environment. Without any one of these elements architecture fails. The need to protect occupants is simple to comprehend, but a building that is structurally sturdy may not respond to the needs of its users and fail at functionality.
Take a house that is not designed with a family in mind: It may meet the basic needs of its occupants, but it may fail at ever becoming a home. If the human element is left out of buildings, they fail to become architecture, and they merely exist as walls, columns, floors and openings, without any intent or direction.
A well-designed space can lift our spirits, make us feel warm, safe and even focus our attention on the worship of an Almighty God. A church with well-placed windows can connect an interior space to nature and the heavens. As you explore Midland's Houses of Faith pay attention to how the windows impact the space. Do they frame a picture of the outside? Do they allow nature to flow into the space? How about the light? Is it falling over the bones of the architecture and highlighting it in a way that defines texture, or is it bursting through stained glass with natural rays of holy color that inspire enlightenment? Also, notice how you are guided through the space by form. Does a low ceiling make a space personal and reflective just prior to entering a sanctuary full of volume, where light, voices and music resonate? The impact of scale can intensify the perception of space and cause a sense of awe and awareness.
Our architecture identifies us. Those things that we deem are important articulate themselves in the architecture we build and protect. From our homes, places of work, to our sanctuaries of worship, architecture is an extension of us. It speaks of us as individuals and a community. Architecture is a reflection of us, our refinement and creativity. It identifies our priorities. Are we interested in evolving and fostering new ideas, or do we hold strong to culture and tradition? Throughout our region we have a rich history of architecture. The cities of Saginaw, Bay City and Midland all reflect the times in which they were created and the mindset of those that help to shape them.
We are fortunate to have such a vast array of architecture in the Saginaw Valley that represents us. As we continue to develop our built environment we will rely upon the interaction between our architects and community. Ultimately, it is the people who are the heart and soul of a place, and the architect that guides the process of development. It’s only through this unique relationship that architecture arises, responding to needs, priorities and traditions. True architecture is a representation of the people it was designed for and inspired by.
Paul Andrew Haselhuhn, AIA