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What Makes Poetic Architecture?

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Boggy | Fotolia

Poetics: More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Poetics is that moment in architecture when elements yield more than the sum of their parts. But what does this really mean? What is it that gets “yielded”? It could be, perhaps, the way architecture is able to “touch” its occupants on deeper emotional or spiritual levels. It could also be the way architecture can convey beauty together with meaning that leaves one feeling more fulfilled.

In this article, I am encouraging you to think about what makes your work poetic. Is it the way you guide your occupants through, as they engage with your architectural features on their experiential journey? Or is it the way you use and play with light within your work, where you help occupants to experience it in new ways? Or is there a certain meaning conveyed through your work — where you use metaphor or symbolism to express a community or a culture’s sentiment?

Whatever the case, it helps when designing to think about how it may reach poetic heights. This will call for your architecture to do something more than serve core functional and aesthetic requirements. It will call for your design to “move” people through deeper beauty and/or meaning. So, what poetic message does your architecture convey? And does it help those who experience it in some way?

Poetic Architecture that Helps People

You can “touch” someone deeply with an architectural work to hopefully leave them off better than before they first experienced it. So, how does one bring value to occupants through poetics? Perhaps this means designing a memorial that serves to restore hope for a people. Or perhaps it means designing a place of worship to help reconnect a community. Whatever the case, it is good to think about how the poetics of your work will impact those whom it “touches”.

To help you with this — it is best to delve into what a person, community, or culture needs before you design. Understand how your built work can serve them as a valuable and needed asset to their lives. For example, by tying together a community’s need with the purpose behind your poetics, you can be more confident that its effects will be “felt” positively — as it helps the people with whom it engages. So, think about the value your architecture brings on multiple levels — yes, the functional and the aesthetic, but also, the poetic.

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is an award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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