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Users and Makers

posted Apr 17, 2011, 3:47 PM by Patricia Martin
In the same way that the reader modifies the text that s/he reads depending on time, place or memories, the user of the building will transform the space continuously according to her/his needs or culture. Michael de Certeau defined strategy as “the calculus of force-relationships which becomes possible when a subject of will and power (a proprietor, an enterprise, a city, a scientific institution) can be isolated from an environment.” [1] Usually architects tend to act as a dominant order in a mass production culture. We design buildings as products that users will consume. These buildings are produced in offices, sometimes far away from the sites, and with a global vision of its needs. So these products are not based on real necessities. They are based on a mass production system within a materialism culture. Upon completion the buildings, the users come into action and transform it with minuscule changes to its culture. The users make the space livable. The users make a place from a space.

As Henry Lefebvre appointed in his book titled The Production of Space, “the user’s space is lived—not represented or conceived. When compared with the abstract space of the experts (architects, urban designers, and planners), the space of everyday activities of users is a concrete one, which is to say, subjective.” [2] For makers, the space is geometrical and objective. It can be measured and represented with graphic elements—plans, elevations, sections, perspectives, models and so on. Nevertheless, the user’s space has memories and wishes. It has a past, a present and a future.

Our responsibility as architects or designers is to create spaces accordingly to the needs of their future users. I doubt about the ethics of building all over the world with the same techniques, materials, or distributions. The place where our buildings are going to stand will be a specific place with specific cultural, physical and geographical characteristics. That is why we must understand the place to make something better of it. As Bataille said, “Architecture is the expression of the very being of societies, in the same way that human physiognomy is the expression of the being of individuals”.[3] Architecture must represent our culture. It must respond to people’s needs.

1. Certau, Michel de. "Introduction to The Practice Of Everyday Life." 1980.
2. Lefebvre, Henri. "The Production of Space, trans. David Nicholson-Smith." pp. 220-6, 360-3. London: Blackwell Publishers, 1991.
3. Bataille, Georges. ""Architecture" trans. Paul Hegarty. Original text: "architecture", Dictionaire Critique." 2, p.117. 1929.