Thanks to the Barbican (what wonderful architecture) for putting on the superb “Constructing Worlds” exhibition. It showcased “photography and architecture in the modern age” and features work by Walker Evans, Stephen Shore, Andreas Gursky and Nadav Kandar amongst others.
It is fascinating to experience how images of varied, almost deserted buildings can effect us. Surely our responses to these images suggest they trigger glimpses into deeper personal realms within our subconscious. Buildings, corridors, rooms, doors, staircases, locks and keys feature in many of our dreams and have been analysed by Freud as powerful symbols of an erotic nature. The exhibition, however, naturally accepts the position that “photography which takes architecture as its subject matter has the ability to communicate wider truths about society”. It does this by showing the buildings symbolic value as reminders of lived experience.
More and more the modern citizen also inhabits a digital world. The digital environment has its own architecture. Though the computer screen is two dimensional, the user journey takes us through numberless doors into familiar or unfamiliar spaces. The internet can thus be visualised as a series of journeys through an almost infinite global digital city.
In this sense the web is a 3 dimensional space – the eye scans each page as though it were a room. Where did I come in…? how do I get out…? what is over there? What happens if I go here? Orientation is fundamental to meaningful browsing. But a sense of beauty and elegance can only be created by attention to extremely fine variations of line and form – the same as in traditional spatial architecture. Some rooms can seem mundane no matter their size, others exhibit extreme beauty even when modest in dimensions. It’s all about aesthetic proportions.
The most architectural of digital spaces are found in the world of gaming. Interiors in these games can sometimes match the awesome beauty of our most majestic cathedrals. But while we can re-live, in memory, the breath taking adventures of travelling through these vectored landscapes – they will never truly outlast us or the prison of their times in the way a beautiful building will survive through the ages.