WORDS BY TIMOTHY HILL, DONOVAN HILL ARCHITECTS
As an architect, I have professional obligations regarding beauty, so I need a robust definition. Contemporary society is largely unaware of how little influence architects have in making and maintaining the built environment. For beauty to be championed, a good definition becomes vital.
So if it is important, how is "place beauty'' defined? As part of being professional, I defer to one of the gentler masters, Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. His output works with what he called "Life Enhancing Charm'', "LEC'', as we say around the office. He authored places where "the look'' took a supporting role to the lead pleasure giver, the LEC. Hand rails are comfortable to hold, there is a sense of being outside even when deeply inside and it is easy to find one's way around (just follow the light).
I tried to work with this definition of beauty at the State Library of Queensland project, in areas where I could be influential. The light in the central "Knowledge Walk'' is bright enough to be suggestive of outdoor space, but without harsh shadows, harsh glare, or harmful UV rays. In this way, people can see each other fully (instead of appearing as silhouettes) and books and laptops can be comfortably enjoyed "outside''.
Is it odd for an architect to rely on knowledge about beauty rather than a feeling for it? I think beauty is in the feelings of the beholder.