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Friday, January 27, 2006

Is AIDS the ultimate pandemic of FEAR?

I recently watched a movie called "Yesterday". The movie focuses on the issue of living with AIDS in an under-developed country. Although the setting is South Africa, I see very real and relevant applications in the US (can anyone forget Katrina in 2005?)

You may ask again, what does AIDS or pandemics have to do with design, planning, or architecture? Well I'm no architect... but the movie focuses on a woman who after contracting AIDS from her husband, has to deal with the effort of obtaining medical care for her husband, protect her young child, and deal with the society's fear, anger, and potential ostracizing.The woman eventually builds a new home for her painfully ill husband. I won't go into the details of the building, (watch the movie) but it highlights the impact of fear of this deadly disease and the resultant dwelling. On a larger scale, it brings to mind how fear feeds into communities, how fear feeds into the development of communities, new communities, poorly built communities, communities that can potentially breed more fear and more/different situations. Does this sound gloomy? It does not have to.

The poor and suffering are not the only ones who are afraid.What of the fear of the 'riche'? Do they also fear that they lose what they have? Are there those who fear that the illness of the poor and underprivileged might rob them of their status? Is that why they build in the hills, on the remote islands, on the cliffs of mountainsides that are well off the tracks that are off the beaten tracks? What about the pandemic of fear? Recently I watched a piece of a Michael Moore film - "Bowling for Columbine". He went to an actor's house, rang the bell at the gate which was quite a distance from the house. The house was guarded and had all of the artifacts of security. Michael Moore asked whether his security measures weren't overkill. The actor was living in a very remote area of suburbia.

The thing is that maybe there is a fear that many of us won't talk about. Especially the rich and the haves. Could it be possible that it's fear... and fear alone that drives architecture? What do you think about that?


At 4:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi peter

I see your blog has some interesting points being discussed, the site is developing nicely. That 13 year old kid has great insight. The connection between architecture and society is in constant flux. Society (architects, urban planners) try to create/design architecture that will transmit a particular message and hope it will influence or further pronounce there message. In some cases it fails or back fires (peter could fill that in) but a great example of successful urban design can be seen in the Dutch- a blend of philosophy and architecture converging. As we develop or decide to change we tend to choose elements of architecture that reflect the direction we hope to express. Closures, exclusivity, openness, hierarchy, are elements we constantly experience; how we choose to express them fluctuate over time. Remember reading that the Chinese, or was it Japanese, within the palace walls (inner most sanctuary) make the visitors path of slightly irregular stones. One could have read the irregular stones (an architectural element) as bad craftsmanship or weakness of power but to them it meant to create exclusivity: watch your step and as you step reflect on the person you are coming to see.
In Brutalism one again finds a particular type of architecture that was meant to express a type of exclusivity and control. Now does that architecture still hold the same meaning?
” Tin roofs” at one time expressed a message of progress, but to me it gave into the industrial revolution with out considering what they had with the thatch roof. As the tin deteriorates along with its surrounding it transforms to create a different urban experience. Now could you say that the same architectural qualities would had accord with the thatch roof; but I would urge you to speculate- had the roof been made of a site specific materials, say “thatch roof” (a time old tradition) the art would have been passed down through the generation; the material for the up keep would have been accessible. A craft and a way of life were misplaced. A connection to nature was up rooted and replaced by the promise of new and better way of life. I know it is a long stretch but these are things that have to be considered if and when we make choices or choose to open up discussions, if we truly believe. With time meanings change. The introduction of new materials/technology has a direct influence on the production of architecture but then “traditional style” tends to weigh in heavily. Having stated the obvious I ask you to elaborate on ANarchitecture. Are you proposing a form of “Destruktion” or like usual am I missing the point.


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