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Towards Humane Architecture

Part 1 Dissertation 2002
Matthew Lowther
Plymouth University Plymouth UK
Once described as the Mother of the Arts, architecture is the only art form which can be truly inhabited. The fundamental role of architecture, therefore, is to establish a rich and rewarding relationship between people and the built environment within which we exist. When building and user begin to develop an almost subconscious dialogue we have the beginnings of Humane Architecture.

It should not be assumed that architecture is always a direct response to the emotional and physical needs of humans; hidden agendas often prevail. At the same time a humane architecture is not merely the opposite to a potentially evil twin Inhumane Architecture, but instead is a way of building whose form and function are wrapped around and derived from the human condition. Far too often we see empty shells, devoid of a life and soul due to a painfully cold interaction between the pristine object-like building and its awkward-looking occupants.

Architecture is for people and this fact should be celebrated, but first one must consider how a dialogue might be established. In developing an understanding of Humane Architecture the work of Frank Lloyd Wright manifests itself. Fallingwater is an amazing portrayal of the characteristics of Humane Architecture, where Wright introduces beauty and subtlety within the broader environment. The use and experience of the architecture comes first, its formal tectonics used as a gently persuasive tool rather than a blunt instrument.

Tadao Ando provides further thought about the relationship between tectonics and human emotion; his Church on the Water is a poetic essay into journey, human scale and connection and one along which Ando transforms the hard solidity of concrete into something much softer and more tactile. Such an understanding of materials and their employment is deeply important to the Humane agenda.

Humane Architecture is concerned with the lived experience of form; a sympathetic architecture which guides people through life in a more comfortable and less inhibited way. It does not use form and materiality merely for effect, but manipulates them such that their inherent qualities become an emotional feature of the design and provoke a stimulating and rewarding relationship between buildings and people.

Matthew Lowther


At Plymouth University School of Architecture the diploma dissertation is comprised from a number of coursework items all undertaken as part of a chosen specialist taught programme that runs for the two years of the diploma. Matthew Lowther's work constitutes his submissions to the Pg-Dip in Humane architecture programme.

Matthew's work explores his concern with the interrelation between form, experiential conditions and meaning through the study of particular examples. Underpinning these explorations are the concerns of the humane architecture programme - namely to develop a critical and human centred response to the dilemmas faced by contemporary architecture. In particular, to consider the ethics of practise in relation to the problems of globalisation, mass production, cultural homogenisation, reproduction and representation, and reductions in diversity and the sensuality of the built environment.

2002
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