There’s only one way to really know architecture (or anything else, for that matter): by being there physically, in person, i.e., to experience it first hand, eyes and mind wide open.
And yet as a reality, architecture remains, for most, beyond reach and regarded, if at all, as irrelevant in the context of daily life, a life guided largely by far more pressing matters. The closest experience, more often than not, is as seen through photography, video, cinematography, exhibits, writing, or a car window.
What then might be the point of photographing, filming, or writing about it, all of which are second hand representations, views through another’s eyes or, in the case of writing, with language which fails even more to fully capture it? When seen or read about at a distance far removed from the day-to-day lives of most people, do any of these alternate attempts at communicating architecture really matter?
Besides its possible entertainment value, there is in fact one important benefit offered by someone else’s look at architecture, regardless of the fact that it’s no substitute for experiencing the real thing.
It’s this: certain images, whether in the form of photos, videos, film, drawings, models, or words, have the ability to penetrate the barrier of prejudices that limit ones private view of what’s possible in life. They penetrate the imagination, igniting inspiration.
The concepts we form over the years about what life holds for us shape our expectations and consequently limit our search for something better.
A photograph or a certain phrase may, like an ember, burn through those barriers, igniting the tinderbox of hope and excitement that even the most stoic of us possess in some quantity.
Lit, the imagination then expands, opening doors to possibilities previously lying dormant. Life moves ahead, becomes more exciting, more alive.
Architecture, one possible expression of being more alive, when presented first as an image, may then begin its journey toward reality and be experienced as it actually is.