Remember the last time you changed your route to stop and visit a particular building. You may have wanted to see it for some time, perhaps it is curiosity or a reminiscence of your student days.
Imagine you are there, entering the realm of its presence with all the particularities of your own life. That architecture is inevitable, substantive, impactful, consequential, and undeniably timeless. What you are seeing, occupying, savoring, in a word EXPERIENCING, is emotionally meaningful. We hold this to be a primary aspiration in the making of architecture.
Can emotions be conceived as a cognitive basis for design rather than being unceremoniously dismissed as personal opinions unworthy of consideration? Emotional meaning in architecture occurs when the elements or the character of a space arouse an emotional response in the user which is meaningful, significant, and enduring. The 20th century had the hard sciences triumphant. Yet, something went profoundly wrong. Thinking took over from feeling. Neglect of the emotions produced an architecture of metrics, meaningless to its inhabitants, detached from the world it was meant to improve. That cold rationality left out the intangibles that make us human rather than machines. Estrangement followed. Emotional meaning aids in reconnecting the inner and outer dimensions of that world. Design without rigor inexorably turns capricious; on the other hand, design without heart lays out urban cemeteries. When rigor and heart are balanced, they infuse the city fabric with a sense of place.
There are grounds for treating emotions with suspicion. They are the slippery slope for the opportunistic to populate the environment with the unsightly. There are at least four types of offenders every designer needs to comes to terms with: a) The Nostalgic: a sentimental longing for a past period; b) The Superficial: the cult of the physique; c) The Commercial: unrestrained consumerism and transient gratification; d) The Inauthentic: something that is not of its time.
If Emotional Meaning helps to re-establish the general public’s affection towards buildings and the built environment at large, then it matters. In affording an opportunity to reengage clients to the value of architecture, Emotional Meaning resets the architect’s outlook to design with people and art as indissoluble essentials of architecture. Emotional meaning alone is not the basis of design; but its absence renders architecture without merit. It is the inscrutable raison d’être that links the act of building to the sublimation of the inner self: a mixture of pleasure, bliss, and rootedness.