Architecture was born when mankind first started erecting structures from raw materials as diverse as rock, wood and even palm leaves. Since those very early days, when the practical need for shelter was its only concern, the construction of man-made edifices has acquired an altogether deeper meaning. From the towns, palaces and temples of antiquity to the skyscrapers, shopping centres, industrial plants and resort hotels of today, architecture has been the expression of cultures, civilisations and eras-providing a visual representation of how each saw the world and its place within it.
If architecture, as the legacy of the 'hardware' each successive generation leaves behind, is the mirror to the collective soul of the society that created it, then it is very revealing indeed. Let's face it, aside from some art, the structures we create during our lifetimes are the things that remind later generations of our presence long after we have faded from living memory. Given such a thought, architects carry a heavy burden of responsibility, for it is on the eloquence of their art that much of our future reputation depends. However, architects are mere mortals, too; as much a product of their times and its prevailing tastes, needs and attitudes to life as the rest of us. For this reason, their creations seldom lie about the times in which they were created and the people they served. From the technology of ancient Egypt, the confidence of Rome, the spiritualism of Shinto pagodas and the dogma of Soviet tower blocks to the commercialism of today's brightly coloured shopping malls, architects have provided a long line of earnest reporters on the aesthetic evolution of mankind.
Just as they pursued diverse dreams of wealth, acclaim, fame and the search for aesthetic harmony, perfect geometry or simply man's victory over the elements, the world's architects have recreated the physical landscape we live in, dabbing increasingly dense touches of paint on the far from blank canvas of the earth's surface. More construction has been added in the last century than in the thousands of years that preceded it, and the pace continues to quicken exponentially. Artist or wrecker of our habitat? In the case of today's architects, especially, there is a thin line between the two. Many structures are destined to become eyesores or be forgotten, but there will always be those buildings that capture an era, stir emotion and continue to live on as brick-and-mortar, glass-and-steel works of art. We look at some masters whose work belongs to this category.
© Michel Cruz