Recent research that examined the correlation between thrill-seeking and the levels of testosterone and cortisol in the blood, un-surprisingly concluded that men tend to be involved in dangerous situations far more than women. And with good reason: produced in high quantities in the testicles, testosterone reduces fear (hence the source of the expression “he’s got balls”), and in turn reduces the need for cortisol – a Glucocorticoid hormone – produced in the pituitary gland to help the body cope with emergencies.
The question is: What does this say about architecture in general and the architectural profession in particular?
For better or for worse (mainly worse), in multi-system chaos there are no longer limitations and we can in fact do everything; apart from changing master plans, which usually reach the site many years after being approved. But since this causes the need for “Relief” in the building permit process, authorities don’t really mind because “Relief” has become their best source of side-income.
Against this troubling background, terms like “renewal”, “astonish” or "surprise" have become a way of communication, like Bibi appearing like the Prophet Elijah at the door of people celebrating Rosh Hashana.
And when architecture loses its boundaries (its most fundamental target) one cannot define what "good architecture" is, neither the relevance of the question, nor in fact, the relevance of all questions - from capital/regime relations to the impotence of the police to find attackers in broad daylight, on a beach filled with witnesses, who don’t have enough testosterone to testify.
No, I haven’t forgotten that we are dealing with architecture, nor that we, as architects, have a professional commitment to the proper functioning of a building, its optimal relationship with the environment, its adaptation to climate (that also constantly surprises us) and, from personal experience – satisfying the whims of local municipality leaders, half of whom are actors in the movie “Behind Bars”.
However, the desire to renew, surprise and challenge, did not of course start with the cyber era, it has always been an important factor in any worthy work of art: in music where the development of the creation depended on the "surprising" variations on a theme; in drama where an unpredictable turning point in the plot, whether comedy or tragedy, changes the hero's life; in painting, where the less comprehensible it is, the higher its price; and of course in architecture that has to be updated according to time and needs.
A fascinating story on this subject concerns Architect Christopher Wren who, in 1666, designed the City of London after the Great Fire destroyed the great plague, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, where one can whisper on one side and be heard on the other without a hearing aid, as well as a number of buildings in the royal City of Windsor.
On one building he designed a stone arcade suspended above the pavement without supporting columns. When the city engineer vigorously protested that it wasn’t safe, he had to give in and insert supportive columns underneath, but to prove his point, he left a gap of an inch so the columns would prove dispensable, to this day, in honor of architectural thought,
In time, this “exciting” trick became a banal motif of Post-Modern architecture, where columns were placed everywhere, without any support function, but that of the architect’s ego.
I myself encountered one of these columns in a restaurant I planned in a concrete building on Dado Beach in Haifa. When I cut into one of the columns in order to insert a serving shelf, the astounded architect who had planned the building, refused to calm down until I proved to her that the (fake) column did not appear in the construction plan.
Though having an architectural ego, this story was not the reason I wrote the article. I actually wanted to remind us all that on the other side of the "surprise" always stands, sits or lies down (mainly lies down) a “user”, who doesn’t always know how to define his needs and wishes but who, in most cases, also strives to renew, surprise, and entertain his guests, according to his budget, daring, and his boredom; until the cord connecting him to reality tears and he finally decides to hire another architect for an expensive, corrective experience.
The problematic and, as mentioned, important aspect of the phenomenon of thrills in any creative act – is that its most attractive results are reflected in buildings that express a (male) “walking on the edge” – a principle fundamentally opposed to the woman architect’s basic ambition for a (feminine) physical, calm and stable house.
And no less problematic is the fact that there is always a real need for renewal - because a house, like its owner gets old, and the needs change. However, the renewal process initiated (like anything else) by regime/capital relations, is accompanied by "gentrification" - a a process in which the operation is successful, but the patient dies.
This is due to the fact that the neighborhood residents – usually an older population with little means – cannot meet the high cost of maintaining a house in a more expensive area – and from there, the way to a Parents Home, or the children’s homes, is short and painful – but that is a subject for another article.
And, to end the article with a smile- someone asked whether this was the "editorial".
No, I replied... but to be frank - the editor wrote it.