The Architecture
of Identity

    All Architecture is Biography.

    Whether it is ultimately about the subject/client, or about the writer/architect, or even about the nature of writing/architecture itself, is as mutable in literature as it is in architecture.

    The questions most enlightened owners struggle with when they are faced with creating a physical (and in practical terms, permanent) artifact like a building, include:

    “What are we making?”
    “What do we need?”?
    “What will others think?”, and ultimately
    “Who are we?”

    This nearly Talmudic introspection can be eluded in Architecture. Today, often with good reason, owners default to an Architect’s Identity rather than memorialize their own. But just as often designers will fail to seek form definition based on their client’s own identity. We, as Architects, just aren’t trained to develop sensitivity to this category of ‘pressures’ that shape buildings. We are trained to express our own ideas rather than those of others.

    These are essentially questions of Identity and Architecture.

    Imperial Roman public buildings were, to an illiterate populous, as legible and as biased as any newspaper or branding exercise is today. Iconography, embellishment, formal and historical references, technological expression and spatial definition were all closely defined by the patron’s sense of ‘public self’. If buildings were biography, then biography was really marketing. Or self-aggrandizement. Or ‘power-positioning’.

    Identity is so deeply embedded in Architecture that one could look at the entire history of buildings through its lens, yet it is unrecognized as a maker of form.