The comments section… where any and all opinions, well thought out or not, go to fester and stew up controversy. From YouTube to news articles, people have no reservations about voicing their opinions behind the shield of a keyboard (and yes I realize the irony of writing this, my opinion, via a keyboard and in a blog post).
This week, an article was brought to my attention on the Denver Infill Blog (http://denverinfill.com/blog/2015/02/new-five-points-curtis-park-project-2300-welton.html) about a project at the edge of downtown Denver in the Five Points neighborhood. After scrolling through the comments section, which I normally try to avoid, I noticed that there were over sixty comments on the project and most of them… did not love the soon to be built project. In fact, most ignored the actual article altogether and proceeded to comment solely on the images provided.
The majority of comments centered around how ugly the building is, how it does not fit the area, the longing for brick on the building, and generally how moronic the developer and architects are. I could sit here and defend the choices of the architect, the developer, the program, or any other choices made, but that would only fuel the ongoing arguments, which I have no intention of doing.
Instead, I propose that we pull back and look at the situation from a more macro level: over sixty comments were posted on this website and all of them were focused on the idea of architecture, urban planning, neighborhood context, and the future of Denver.
In a year where the AIA has launched its “I Look Up” (http://ilookup.org) campaign to raise awareness about architecture and the value of architects in society, it should be a point of optimism (again, from a very macro perspective) that so many people cared enough about a building going up to voice their opinions on said building. Whether or not those opinions are well informed is another topic, but the fact remains that people actually do care about the work that we do (even if many think we are idiots).
If we look at these comments through the lens of grouping them in the context of the public at large, we see that people genuinely do care about the work that architects do, but often have differing ideas for what is good or bad or know the parameters in which a project gets built. Most generally do not know the market climates in which we try to build or the painstaking process that is undertaken in order to get things even to a conceptual level.
Let’s look at this comments section not as an attack on architecture, a firm, or a group of individuals, but as a sign that people care about what we do. It will never be possible to please 100% of the population, as opinions are as varied as paint swatches. That being said, having a population that is at least informed about what architects do and what our thought process involves is not an insurmountable task. This is something that we have to take upon ourselves; to broadcast what we do and the amount of thought that goes into every design decision that we make.
It’s easy to assume that others will do it or that people will just “get it” someday. The real challenge is to take notice of the fact that people are genuinely concerned and interested in the built environment and that it is our task to communicate as effectively as possible the value of architecture and design.
Otherwise, comments like this are our future:
“Ugly,Ugly, Ugly says it all for this building. Love to see new development in Five Points, but this is a poor design choice…”