Professor Justin Hilton told me in my first year of architecture school that we were all in the program because something in us was a control freak. We could control virtually all of a person’s senses by the way we crafted space. We control the way people circulate, what they see, what they hear, what they feel, smell – about everything but taste, unless they feel like licking some hardwood floor.
I now pass this saying along to my students, as I feel it is critical to understand the effect a designer can have on an occupant of space even at a subconscious level. This brings me to my real topic: have we over controlled space?
I bring this up because I got married last Saturday. It was the most beautiful day a person could ever ask for outside, and it ended up being the best day of my life. The only hitch in the entire day happened during the ceremony, which I will get to in a few.
Think about all of the common interior spaces people hold a marriage ceremony- a beautiful cathedral, a neighborhood church, a Vegas chapel, a city courthouse. These spaces evoke different emotions and actions, and are very controlled. The environment is created by the architecture itself, and occupants react accordingly – subconsciously or consciously.
Exterior spaces however present an element of the unknown…nature. Sure, a beach setting for a wedding ceremony will bring the gentle crashing of waves, the distant sounds of boats cruising along the shoreline, and the rustle of palm trees in the breeze. At any moment though, those sounds change. An airplane might fly over the gazebo at the most inopportune moment. Its a part of the elements – and where true character is found.
Now, back to my wedding ceremony. We got married at a local mansion, where we used the exterior areas for the ceremony. An angry neighbor decided that it would be fun to throw a child’s birthday party facing over top of our exterior ceremony site, inflatable jump and all. Despite the fact the children were saying ‘Shhhh its a wedding!!’, the angry neighbors egged them on to scream even louder at the beginning of the ceremony. Now on top of being nervous and emotional from seeing my beautiful bride, I am now increasingly frustrated with the lack of respect these people are showing towards our big day. They suddenly quieted right as we said our vows [because the police showed up] so ultimately it worked out wonderfully.
Looking back on it now, I feel like I will remember my ceremony a bit more distinctly that this happened than if it was held in a controlled environment. We had character. Its a story to tell. It gives me a renewed sensitivity to how beautiful nature is, how beautiful the character of a city is. Whether it comes at an inopportune time or not, sometimes the character of the unknown is refreshing.
So I sit and think, do we control space too much? In an era where character is diminishing all around us, should we let more of our surroundings in and enjoy it, good or bad, while we still have it to enjoy? For me, I now get to enjoy life and all of its unknowns with my love – and there’s no sense in not enjoying everything life brings.