Sleep is replaced by wakefulness, followed by breakfast, driving, work, and then shopping and supper, then sleeping, again, and waking up, again. Every day repeats the previous day. The same actions, same habits, same places. This is everyday life that threatens to engulf us with its relentless routines. And we move away from it towards the extraordinary and the singular, towards the event, fantasizing about the unattainable. Architecture has also moved away from everyday life and its routine. Architecture plans the singular, the spectacle. Today more than ever, it is inextricably entwined with the image and the fantastic.
The quotidian takes place between the apartment and the city, it takes place on the streets of the city, between the cogs of its huge underlying mechanisms, like economics and politics, as well as in the individual’s private space – in his home. Architecture is the space of the quotidian and holds the possibility to build on the mundane to formulate the sphere of our life. But can we see the everyday as changing, identify the singular in something that repeats itself day after day? Can architecture plan for everyday life?
Architecture or Fantasy
A girl eating breakfast. She is sitting at the table, in front of a plate, a bowl with salad leftovers, and a telephone. The frame also captures the floor, curtains, and some chairs: an everyday life situation. This is what a girl having breakfast at home looks like, this is what a kitchen looks like, and this is architecture. Flicking through architecture magazines and looking for pictures of kitchens will reveal something different: the images are all very similar to one another. The kitchen in them is always gray, spacious, and empty with gleaming countertops and an island. It has stainless steel built-in oven and fridge. It is made of pristine white veneer. The floor is made of a gray material. The kitchen is encased in a cold material and the entire photo exudes coldness. Something else links these images – they are all photographed in the same manner: same cleanliness, same camera angles. Mediated through perfect images.
Where did the gap between reality and the architectural image, between life and fantasy, start? In real life, the girl is sitting in front of an empty plate on the dining table. In real life, the sink is full of dirty dishes. And in the architectural image, life is diverted and replaced with something else. We may call it “mainstream.” “Consumerism” can also describe this phenomenon. Guy Debord used the term “The Society of the Spectacle.” All these wish to define the substitution of our everyday world with what lies beyond our grasp.
This shared fantasy, manifested in the architectural images, stands in opposite to the quotidian. Ninety nine percent of what we actually do in life. And so, when we are talking about the link between architecture and everyday life, we must ask: can we plan for it? And if we can, then, what is its esthetics? Since, if we plan for the everyday (reality) we will plan for our life in it. The answer may be found on the architect’s desk, in a practice removed from the street and from the house, where the room in which we are reading these lines was designed. What is the planner’s position towards the real, and why does he plan images of a house rather than a house? And how is the cultural agenda that delineates how we live our life determined? The absence of architecture from the concrete examination of man’s immediate living environment engenders man’s alienation from the building and the street and the city. In almost every apartment, in almost every building whose spatial organization presumes to constitute a street and a city, we find the same cold and gray kitchen.
Architecture or Fantasy
Everyday life stands against (architectural) culture and its aesthetics. Against the path paved by capitalism in which architecture follows: the fake grandeur embedded in our life, the spectacle, the dazzling, the singular, the desire to impress. Against architecture and the architects of glamour. Porcelain granite and glass shopping malls and prestigious skyscrapers, which are – despite their name – impervious to the sky, to light and to air. Architecture that serves compulsive consumerism by separating man from the world. Against residential neighborhoods that are in fact commercial projects. Materials whose main quality is luxury while the material is nothing but a product. As well as against inscrutable technology, the systems of the buildings that have taken over our life, from the central AC system to the “smart house”; against formalist uninspired architecture that produces nondescript buildings, which are not banal either. Against the fact that not only architecture does not serve as the foundation from which society can formulate the quality of man’s environment, it also does not serve as a source of inspiration for him.
Everyday life introduces questions surrounding the immense distance that stretches between architecture and the architectural practice to people and their daily routines. Everyday life is not a theory or an ideology, but rather an invitation to identify our commonality in the particular. It is the forgotten story, it is the greater portion of our life. Prosaic, it nevertheless holds the possibility to be poetic, moving, and have a passion for life. Everyday life allows us to trace it through its iterations. It is familiar and common. Everyday life is simplicity that envelops, in structural and sensory terms, the common human actions: eating, sleeping, watching television, reading. It has an appearance and it is made of a certain material.
Looking at everyday life, you can sense actions, you can see actions, you can be nostalgic without fearing the irrelevance that comes with not rushing to catch up with progress. You can feel the motions of cutting vegetables for a salad, imagine the morning light streaming through the window, sitting by the dinner table, the way to work, the darkness of the stairway, the feeling of sitting down on the sofa, listening to the sound of the steps from the room to the kitchen. The aesthetics of everyday life emerges from the amalgamation of action and space. The everyday is the chaos of the actions of life, before they are arranged in an imaginary narrative along the continuing timeline. Hence, the architecture of everyday life is not a spatial composition of functions, but rather what allows these actions to take place in it.