It’s about people

This is a concept so obvious it is often left out of the discussion. And that can be a problem. In our enthusiasm to laud the newest architectural designs and construction methodology those who create buildings (and those who follow their creations) sometimes forget that architecture is not a private endeavour. Almost every building is used by a variety of people, and it is the collective distillation of their experiences that end up dictating the lasting legacy of any given project.

All of the projects discussed in this issue share as a unifying element Philip Johnson’s simple yet vital assertion that, at its core, “all architecture is shelter. All great architecture is the design of space that contains, cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”

For example, the three new houses of worship featured in this issue, plus other exciting ones on the horizon such as Hariri Pontarini Architects’ eagerly anticipated Bah’ Mother Temple for South America in Santiago, Chile (above, the recent recipient of a prestigious 2007 Progressive Architecture Awards citation for unbuilt projects), represent not only new ways of looking at religious architecture, but are a vibrant collaboration of the sacred and the secular that brings together the highest aesthetic and spiritual ideals.

In our examination of the upcoming 2010 Olympic Winter Games as a catalyst for development, contributors such as the mayor of Whistler and a member of British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment share similar attitudes that all development currently underway to accommodate the Games must encompass a broader vision, one that includes the people who will be living with the legacy of the Games long after the Torch has been doused.

And in a feature entitled “The Stars Are Out,” Kelly Rude provides an overview of the current wave of luxury and design-driven hotel development in Canada, which is riding a crest of unprecedented growth in the sector, but notes “the test will be the design of the service at the end of the day.”

Even the newly-opened, Daniel Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which will be extensively covered in the forthcoming August/September issue of Building, needs to be assessed in the light of what it does — or doesn’t — do for people, the visitors to the museum and the broader city.

These buildings demonstrate new ideas and developments in urban, sacred, and public architecture, but ultimately builders must remember that users are more important than the ideas or materials that form a building. Ideally, a building should have qualities that exceed its physical dimension. To adlib an expression: it is not concrete and steel that make a structure so much as what — and who — it contains that moves us.

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