Saturday, February 19, 2011

Aestheticizing Violence... Literally

*Disclaimer: I don't know anything about architecture, so please excuse my ignorance on the subject*

I stumbled upon "Lethal T-Square: Architecture, Violence, Renewal" and I found it fascinating because I have never contemplated the connection between architectural aesthetics and violence. The article begins with a quote by Bernard Tschumi: "There is no architecture without action... There is no architecture without violence".  It goes on to discuss the movie Death Wish as a gruesome cinematic parable of "architecture being pushed to its extremes", and explains the complex relationship of human constructive and destructive impulses in design.  Death Wish is the story of an architect/ vigilante who turns to murder when his life falls apart; his design aesthetic undergoes a drastic transformation as he becomes increasingly violent.  

While that movie is obviously a twisted fantasy that could only be dreamt up by the most fanatical of architects, the concept behind it is worth exploring.  Death Wish is a fairly obscure old movie, but another instance of a creative force in a film is the Architect in Inception.  Ariadne succeeds not because she creates magnificent landscapes (which she does), but because she is able to connect deeply with the dreamer.  Her designs allow the dreamer to feel comfortable enough to interact with this space, and to fill it with his memories and ideas.

Those are far-fetched, extreme ways to think about the forces of architecture.  Another way to look at it is to contemplate how architecture can reduce violence.  Architects create spaces that affect us on a daily basis without us even realizing it.  They have the tools to build and transform communities from the ground up, and they use those tools to transform empty spaces into something that we can all connect with.  My question is, can architecture really reduce crime rates (there are several case studies that attest to it) and increase a feeling of safety in dangerous neighborhoods?  Or is this just a load of BS thought up by a bunch of crazy, egotistical architects who dream of moonlighting as vigilantes?

1 comment:

  1. Whether or not architecture, or any other aesthetic aspects of the environment, has psychological effects, there are already efforts to manipulate behavior through architectural design. The field of "crime prevention through environmental design" (CPTED; aims to "influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts" through environmental design. There seems to be some empirical evidence supporting approaches such as this, but they are still contested. Regardless of the effectiveness of approaches to design such as CPTED, the idea of using the environment to control human behavior is to me creepy in an Orwellian sense.


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