Peter McDermott / People Make Glasgow
A is for Architecture is an online space looking at, thinking about and discussing architecture, buildings, urban culture and space. The principle underpinning all material produced here is that People Make Places. This is quite a popular construction, but at the same time seems both obvious and untrue, all at the same time. Of course people make places! But places are not made of people! And most people just live in places and have nothing at all to do with their making. They’re made of stuff. And they are built for us, like shoes or pencils or Mars Bars. Or houses.
But the proposition that People Make Places is, in truth, neither that obvious or that false, it’s actually quite clever and really rather radical. Perhaps it's not understood, its implications not fully grasped. Because if people make places, then surely people’s values and identities should be central to the design, building and renewal of places? If people make places, wouldn’t places reflect the people? But, you may ask, doesn’t this already happen? Aren’t our cities and towns and houses made for our benefit? And isn’t our infrastructure produced in response to our needs, values and desires? Don’t they represent us already?*
Well, yes and no. People make stuff which makes places, maybe. Stuff doesn’t make people either, but maybe stuff makes people act in certain ways. Or better, maybe stuff makes people more likely to act in certain ways, makes certain actions more likely to occur. So the stuff of places really only supports us, or at least it probably should. But looking at our cities now, and our towns and countryside, all of it is increasingly characterized by a sort-of monocultural landscape of cheap, thin, messy bits-and-pieces, unplanned, thoughtless and crummy, riven by dirty roads and bad railways, mediated by an infrastructure of security, articulated by graphic inequality. And among all this, some good things from time back, which we look at and rightly wonder.
But it’s the ‘made for us’ character of much of our urban lives that A is for Architecture wants to understand and to challenge. A is for Architecture derives from a belief that people make culture, including architectural and urban culture, for themselves, that all meaningful, sustainable urban life finds its source in the ordinary and the everyday realities of regular people doing normal things. So this site will discuss and document the story of places and people and how they come about.
And the other stuff? Well, it’s fun; sometimes it’s interesting; like a Ferrari, definitely wonderful, but not much use when you want to pop to the shops.
[*If your answer to those three questions is ‘Yes!’, A is for Architecture may not be for you. There are other, better places that will sustain your beliefs, with slick pictures of shiny buildings by Big People for even Bigger People, and then given to Us by Them (if we’re good). They look great, it’s true and A is for Architecture is not totally immune to their allure...]