The Charleston Parks Conservancy community charette to discuss plans for the next phase of development on the West Ashley Greenway/Bikeway is just two weeks away. Yesterday was the last mad dash to prepare graphics for printing the signs that will be posted along the greenway and bikeway. We have been pouring our effort into this signage aiming to attract the attention of a diverse cross-section of community members and users, particularly those that may not be reached through typical Parks Conservancy channels, and because—if I have learned anything in my time studying architecture—architecture is never just one thing.
This has involved quite a few lengthy meetings in the last week, and though meetings are inevitably boring to some degree or another, ours have lately included…Spanish poetry read-alouds, pirating of workspaces, John maxing out his Instagram count allowance, and about a thousand subtle little tweaks and adjustments that have rendered this phase of the project almost unrecognizable from just a week ago…and much, much better!
Here are some of the sign versions we have been working through… (Can you guess which one we picked?)
Fairly unrelated (but also related) is something I have been thinking about since early in the semester. It is a question I can’t shake…
What is architecture?
It is a question I can’t answer yet. Oh sure, I can say the trite things like “it is making buildings” or “it is designing spaces.” But what is it at this scale? The human scale? What is it at the grassroots scale of a community that will live with what we make long after we are gone? What is it when it is about building up people’s lives, but with time the people will change and the structure will more or less stay the same? What is it when it is beautiful or inspiring, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and “inspiring” is a thousand things to a thousand people? What is architecture when it’s not a traditional four walls and a roof? What is the practice of architecture when the thing we really want to do is impact the dynamic lives of living people, not just a static assembly of materials?
Ultimately, what makes something not just a building or a structure, but a piece of architecture? Because I think there is a difference and I suspect it lies somewhere amid the vast fields of intention and ability.
So now you see my struggle with such a seemingly simple question. And maybe (probably) it is a question that I will be answering for the rest of my life. But also maybe (hopefully) it is a question I will have a few better answers to in May.
But back to the business at hand, if you are in the Charleston area and a user or neighbor of the West Ashley Greenway or Bikeway, consider joining the community meeting on Wednesday, February 10th at 6pm. In it we will be envisioning with you the next phase of the Greenway/Bikeway development. Register at the link provided here. Or call (843) 212-6412 for more information.