In his lecture in Chicago, the Brazilian architect and 2006 Pritzker Architecture prize winner, Paulo Mendes da Rocha said,
‘The problems of architecture are fundamentally philosophical.’
His words brought back memories when I was an architecture student pondering over the difference between architecture and building. I could not find an equivalent of the word architecture in my native language and this question has remained in me ever since. Looking back, my teaching, research and practice were elliptical efforts to clarify this question and my continuing quest for reconciliation.
Having practiced as an architect for sixteen years, I have come to believe that architecture carries something beyond the act of building. Architecture offers a surplus, a generosity that the performative aspect of a building lacks. Whether one calls that surplus beauty, grace, poetics or social agency, it is a pursuit of significance. Architecture can exists both within and outside of building; as a form of discourse, a thought-experiment or a strategy that reveals the potentialities of things and their relationships. It can simultaneously be an affirmation and a denial of building. Its paradoxical, ill-defined and permeable existence is at once liberating, marvellous and unsettling.