Social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions and interactions of the individuals.
In human history social structures evolved and changed dramatically.
There is no question that easy access to the internet, like the introduction of reliable mail-service and the invention of the mobile phone- with all its’ apps, has changed the nature of people’s connection to others in their social world. The rise of online communication and the growth in the use of technology has created a boundless world in which worldwide protest, virtual communities and instant communication are exemplary for the possibilities of people to unite on a worldwide level. Connections can be made among people without physical proximity. We don’t have to sit in the same space anymore, in order to be able to communicate with each other. Spaces are no longer only physical; communication revolution changed the nature of interpersonal and group processes and the boarders are blurry. We achieved a lot, there is no doubt.
Yet, I wanted to bring into question both the ‘down-side’ of this revolution as well as the role of architecture in providing space for communication and togetherness.
Can architecture provide a significant tool for people to maintain or redevelop their ability of connecting and understanding each other in modern times?
Sitting around the campfire may have served as one of the first forms of ‘social networking’; as a place where stories were being told and conserved and formed a social structure of belonging, interdependence and culture. Human learned to master fire during the Paleolithic era between one million and 400,000 years ago. Regularly keeping fires allowed early peoples to extend their day. No longer rendered inactive by darkness, people could gather in the fire’s glow to verbally and communally process their lives.
Polly Wiessner , an anthropology professor at the University of Utah, calls the fire-light stories ‘the original social media and says they provided the medium for shared information, emotions and entertainment which led to social bonding.
Looking back at architecture in the 60’s, many architects have been busy with creating buildings, spaces and environments designed to empower the individual through a universal thought. They tried to incorporate a sense of bonding by opening up the possibilities for individuals to act and interact with each other.
One of these architects of the 60’s, who was occupied with creating spaces and buildings with the aim of creating social interaction, was Aldo van Eyck. Frances Strauven writes in ‘Aldo van Eyck- Shaping the New Reality From the In-between to Aesthetics of Number’ that during his career, van Eyck applied himself to the explanation and the relationships of polarities, like the past and the present, classic and modern, archaic and avant-garde, constancy and change, simplicity and complexity, the geometric and the organic. He also developed the conviction that all cultures are valid and that Western civilization should not be regarded as the superior system it pretends to be. He considered that architecture like paintings since Cubism, had to rediscover ‘the archaic principles of human nature’, the fundamental human constants shaped by archaic cultures since time immemorial. As he put it at the Otterlo congress: ‘To discover a new implies discovering something new (from the existing). Translate this into architecture and you’ll get new architecture- real contemporary architecture.’
Yona Friedman said : ‘Anybody with any level of schooling can move a chair, yet how can you manipulate your residence, the public building or the city- like you manipulate a chair. The problem lays in the networks: Today is already finished and architecture get’s less important. It’s not the sophisticated technology that brings new things. Human, in comparison to animal, can actually violate the environment. As where animals have to adapt to their environment, we could use tools, imagination and architectural space inventions to reduce violation.’
The words of Yona Friedman made me think about ways to reduce violation without using sophisticated technology, yet, to really look at the existing structure and to rather use the knowledge of the ancient world. Or, as Aldo van Eyck said: ‘Look for the new in the existing.’
The building exists already, like the ancient social tradition of sitting around the fire.
I wanted to search for the ideal combination of elements of past and present, to make people connect again in new ways, through a sacral and ceremonial use of space.
I am passionate about a world of social interaction and by bringing the ritual of human exchange and togetherness in modern age society; I want to open up the space for a communication. For me the ‘magic’ was not laying in designing a building or space, yet rather to create a new way of using space to gather. As if to rediscover the ancient tradition of the campfire to forge meaning to an existing space where people can socially interact with each other, pushing internet and technology to the background, to go back to the act of bonding and communicating on a level of feelings, needs and presence.
I designed a communication circle of sand, with a projection of light from the top, creating an open platform symbolizing the fire in the middle. I see the form of a circle as one of the most powerful symbols of human community and communication. From a structural point of view, people become equal. Togetherness can become a shared goal of co-existence, driven by the desire to observe and see the self as well as all others involved.
The communication circle of sand challenges people to use their imagination and to be in the moment of (inter)action and the spirituality of observation. The sand and some tools will be provided with some communication-guidelines, to inspire and guide people into being present with each other and take the reality of what is alive (in terms of feelings and needs) as a starting point of any group decision-process.
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