Lina Stergiou, “Architecture Gets Intense. Familiar and Unfamiliar architectural experiences”, Volume 6 (March/April/May 2006): 122-33

The architectures here presented are seductive and attractively ingenious. They seek to intensify the spatial experience of the user in diverse ways, either by creating sensually familiar spaces, or at other times intellectually engaging unfamiliar ones, and even through both together. These architectures do not work on a purely visual dimension; they enforce a powerful experience, by physically or mentally dislocating the body and stimulating the senses. They have a clear tendency to engage their beholders and evoke a dynamic interaction with them. This is hardly irrelevant to the focus of architects on the effect their project has on its audience. The power of the project to influence is a vital part of how it is promoted to the client and the public, as well as to fellow architects.
Familiar architectures bridge the gap between high and low culture by combining high aesthetics and a sophisticated implementation with a general yearning for comfort or bodily protection. These architectures gain their power by adopting a strategy of seduction that engages the audience – the public, users, clients and developers as well as fellow architects – through the senses.
In contrast to the above architectures, the unfamiliar ones attempt to impose codes on the wider audience that are internal to the arts. By directly molding human conduct and reforming thought, they exercise a definite power over the public. But these are also the precise reasons they are not readily acceptable to the public. Their final acceptance and secret power derive from adopting an artistic strategy: they employ innovation as artistic merit, the architects assume a profile which is daring or is that of an artistic genius and use the right type of promotion to insure wide acceptance. This includes the use of fluent oration, curators, and public relations. In addition to the above, they employ tools so as to make their inherently provocative nature look appealing. They enrich their vigorous intellectual powers with sensual or pleasant elements.
In deciding to see things in their true perspective, we may acknowledge that both architectures are nice decorative elements amidst the more serious problems that architecture can address. Seductive architectures are desired luxury items; they are not needed in states of poverty or war, nor indeed by the eighty-five percent of the world population existing under substandard living conditions. Setting these architectures on a pedestal, attaches onto them an overstated importance that may indicate a clouded, wider perspective. Keeping the bigger picture alive does not necessarily mean designing only for weaker social groups, responding to ‘emergency’ situations or, even more, providing housing in countries where it is direly needed. It might simply suggest avoiding mystifying architects and architectures like those presented; avoiding being overwhelmed by architectural attributes that the architectural culture and media tend to overstate. Keeping the bigger picture alive might merely imply that we move beyond the myths we cultivate for furthering the profession; old myths as well as new legends.