The Beauty Of Function

You and I are different. Every person is a unique organism, with their own thoughts and values. And since we developed an impressive ability to express that, with it also comes our wish to be heard and debate on the taste and actions of others.

Even if this may sound like a bad attribute I think it is essential to our evolution and growth. You can use these comments as an opportunity to understand others and ourselves beyond the façade, and if you dig deep enough and admit your mistakes you can learn from them. And as long as your values and actions don’t hurt or badly affect others I respect them, even if they strongly differ from mine, you do you. But even if we all realise that beauty is subjective, it is still hard to hear a negative comment on something that you worked on and poured your heart into. Working in architecture you are constantly exposed to that, and I don’t think there has ever been a building that everybody on our planet likes. But I believe that architecture is more than just the looks.

There has been enough said and written about beauty and opinions of what makes architecture good. I feel like structure is the obvious aspect of architecture, so we can let that be. What battles me the most is the relation between beauty and function. While beauty is such a subjective subject, a function is an objective one. Even if we have the need for different functions, and you don’t need a giant bathroom, the family with three little kids has a reason for it and you cannot deny it. In function there is a reason. So at least for me, in function is beauty.

We will probably never know what draws us to nature and the scenes that it has to offer. Why we can’t say that there is a building that everybody likes, but nature offers us something we all love. The pretty golden evening light that falls through the trees, a field of colourful flours, snowy mountain peaks are the visuals that I would like to believe everybody finds beautiful. But maybe we subconsciously feel the function behind all that. We know that the sun keeps the circle of life going, how precious water is, and how vital is vegetation for the whole planet. Is maybe that the reason we also find it that magnificent, because our brains also look for the meaning of what we see, and creates the whole picture before forming an opinion?

While we know the function of nature, the function of a building is often unknown. I have often find myself changing my opinion of a space I have known for a long time after seeing how it works and how it improves at least someone’s everyday life. So I decided to wait before forming a strong opinion from the first look, and rather try to find the function of it. It goes the other way too, I think there are a lot of buildings that look beautiful with suitable materials and form, but the functionality of it is just not right. The people living inside that beautiful house that you drive by every day may lack space for their kids, or are too hot or too cold most of the year, or they just simply don’t feel comfortable inside it. And if they come asking for your advice on what to do, I don’t think complimenting that it looks good will help them.

Still, it is totally normal to have your own opinion. But what I would urge you to try, is that the next time you see a building with a weird orange colour that is not your style, or you feel like the wood ages poorly, or you don’t understand why people use flat roofs, stop for a second and view it through somebody else’s eyes. The building may be home to a couple of struggling families or represent a space of safety for someone, or has some different function that matters. Even if you still don’t find it beautiful, you can recognise that it has a meaning and use for someone, and don’t you think that is also beautiful in its own way?

Author: Urška Uršič