chapter  3
26 Pages

Architecture and culture

A way to begin thinking about architecture and ethics is the commonplace, though hardly straightforward, proposition that architecture is a ‘cultural’ enterprise. This proposes that buildings (or some of them anyway) demonstrate an existential need – perhaps one for creative expression, self-affi rmation or communal identity (or all three and more). These possibilities all underscore the idea that architecture is important insofar as, like other forms of art, it expresses ‘who we really are’ at a given place and time. ‘Culture’ is both a noun and a verb. It is something of value as well as a mode of self-improvement making for valuable things. Either defi nition holds true, whether the outcome is a work of architecture, a painting, a novel or even a well-formed plant or animal. In fact, one line of reasoning about culture comes from horticulture and animal husbandry and steps taken towards the ‘cultivation’ or improvement of land and the domestication of species. Perhaps partly because of this etymology we tend to think of cultural values as particularly important ones, leading to human betterment, the refi nement of tastes and social progress.