By Ar. Maundy Florendo, PIA, UAP
Are you mad at DICTATORS? Don’t be. Even architecture dictates. Architectural designs and concepts can dictate people’s actions and ways of life. It can suggest a specific movement or help preserve culture and tradition.
Let me illustrate. Have you been to a Japanese Tea House? The conventional Japanese tea house — according to a good friend, Ar. Cheery Dominguiano who has worked in Japan for quite some time as an architectural designer — has a door height that is too low for customers to walk into with their heads high. It is purposely designed that way to force people to respect the owner and the building by bowing as they enter the door. Others even kneel down for an easier entry to the building.
Let me offer more examples. Have you seen a green lawn turn brown along the tracks left by people either too lazy to take the designated walkway or just too much in a hurry to totally disregard the natural growth of the grass? Or a blank wall full of graffiti written over the signage that reads; “NO VANDALISM, P500 FINE” in bold and red letters? Or “tambay” in groups inside a fast food diner while others, who are waiting to be seated, could not find a place to comfortably have their meal?
Some architects find great ideas to compel people to respect nature by walking along the nicely and comfortably paved walkway instead of distorting the artistically patterned grass field. Or purposely make textured walls that are either hard to write on or instantly conceal any graffiti by the irregularly but artistically patterned wall texture. Or intentionally make slightly-inclined dining stools in the fastfood house so that customers will comfortably have their meals but will feel a little discomfort when seated for a long time, indirectly suggesting to their brains that they need to stand up and allow other waiting customers to be seated.
The Filipino commuting public are often seen occupying one to two lanes of the highway as they struggle to take the earliest ride, notwithstanding the hazards brought about by the rushing vehicles, while just a few meters behind them is a seemingly abandoned structure commonly called “waiting shed” or “bus/jeepney stop”. This daily battle to grab a ride leaves the women, children, older people, and persons with disability, helpless as they cannot fight their way through the crowd who seems to be all in a rush. No matter how hard the traffic enforcers try to control the mob, all their efforts seem hopeless.
But have we ever wondered why, in the LRT/MRT stations, commuters almost automatically fall in line with minimal reminders from the guards? This is because the facility is designed to suggest that people should fall in line, unless they want to get hurt. Architects can make thousands of design ideas for waiting sheds that can be effective in suggesting to or compelling the commuters to fall in line or better yet, patiently take a seat while waiting for their ride. Well-designed bus /jeepney stops can dictate to the users the virtue of patience, respect for the time and rights of others, or even giving way to the older people and the PWD.
It is not enough that structures are built. Effective structures require the careful study by the design professionals. Architects’ keen analyses of people’s movement and use of space can result to effective structures that can help make the people’s lives better.
Yes architects can help. And architecture dictates… in a positive way.