Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Exhibit Review: Cloud City


Every summer the Metropolitan Museum of Art features a different exhibit on the roof.  I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the roof many times in the past and enjoy the fact that the sculptures on display really affect the entire roof space, which, is surprisingly small given the size of the MET itself.  The current exhibit is Cloud City by Tomas Saraceno which is one of the few sculptures that can be inhabited, bridging the gap between art and architecture.  


The sculpture is composed of a series of stacked asymmetric three-dimensional polygons, seemingly random in shape and size all stacked together.  Truth be told, they may all be the same size and shape but the arrangement gives it the random appearance of a cloud.  The surfaces vary from opaque, transparent and mirrored creating a sense of disorientation as you move around and through it.  Each of the separate volumes is bolted together but also include a series of cables tying everything together while providing an additional layer to the sculpture.  

While walking around Cloud City you see the sky, paving of the roof, the surrounding buildings and greenery of Central Park, along with people who are within it all at once in every direction.  This perspective breaks down the massing of the object before you and really makes it a part of the museum surroundings and the city as a whole.  Being inside Cloud City offers a similar experience with the added thrill of transparent floor surfaces which completes the feeling of being in the clouds.  This feeling of seeing the sky and ground next to each other wherever you look brings the entire roof garden into the clouds.  The kaleidoscope effect of the reflective and transparent surfaces is both disorientating and pleasing, you are at once taken away from and a part of the MET, Central Park, New York.  I would highly recommend visiting Cloud City while it’s still on display, until November 4 2012, to experience it for yourself.

For more information visit www.metmuseum.org or http://www.tomassaraceno.com

Thursday, August 16, 2012

London Olympics 2012

London Olympic Village 2012

Last week was the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic games.  The United States did well, leading all countries in total medals as well as gold medals, a proud moment indeed.  I'm not much of a sports fan so I didn't watch many events, I did see some and I did watch a portion of the opening ceremonies.  But now that the games are over I think it's a good time to review what we did see. 

As I said, I only watched a part of the opening ceremonies, beginning with rolling grass fields filled with farm animals and people living the rural life, quite a difference from the high tech opening we witnessed in Beijing four years ago. The field of the stadium transformed from this lush green landscape to a black and gray soot filled city when the grass carpet was literally rolled up to make way for the paving beneath, demonstrating how we have moved the land and conquered nature to make way for industry and its hulking smoke stacks.  Even the cast of characters changed, in one fell swoop the country folk tending the land and their animals were replaced by business men and factory workers, who worked the foundry to forge the Olympic rings which were raised overhead.  It's funny how we look at industrial revolution as a time of great progress but when the transformation takes a brief few minutes it seems less so.  Oh yeah, how can I forget the Queen dropping in along with super spy 007 a sign that popular culture play as important a role in culture as does history. 

So after the celebration of the history of England and the official opening of the 30th Olympic games it was time to check out some events.  Many of the few events I did watch I had completely forgotten about since the 2008 Olympics.  The first weekend I saw some of the men's and women's cycling road race.  These are some of the televised events where you get to see a good part of the city, and the countryside as they close down the streets along the route of the event.  This is a race over 150 miles so there is a lot of ground to cover.  The fact that London is an old city made watching it all the more enjoyable as the cyclists went through both urban areas as well as rural areas so dense with trees you didn’t see the riders from the aerial shots, it was a great way to see how the scale of the city changes.  I also saw some track and field, swimming, gymnastics and a bit of the team sports like volleyball and basketball.  As an architect one thing I like to see when watching the Olympics is all the new buildings that went up for the games. 

London was chosen for this year's Olympics back in 2005 when world economies were stronger, but despite the economic fallout since then a enormous amount had to be accomplished to prepare for the games.  The majority of the buildings constructed for the game are located in the East End, an area known for its large immigrant and working class population.  The city saw the Olympics, and the large cash outflow that accompanies its preparation as an opportunity to help revitalize the area.  Additionally London attempted to make the 2012 Olympics sustainable to some degree, included in this is the adaptability and, in one case, transportability of the buildings.  Some buildings accomplish this noble goal better than others. 

The focus of media coverage during the games seemed to be the large Olympic Stadium by Populous Architects.  The Stadium is characterized by the large compression truss and triangular light towers encircling it, quite an elegant design.  It wasn't apparent, by looking at the building, that it was designed for disassembly.  These light towers and circular truss are designed to be easily removed along with the upper levels of seating leaving a stadium with a capacity less than half that of the one where people watched Olympic events.  It is apparent that the design was considered in both forms, something that cannot be said of the Aquatic Center.

Like the Olympic Stadium the Aquatic Center was also designed to hold more spectators during the games than it would after.  However, I cringed after seeing the Zaha Hadid designed Center.  There was no asking where the temporary seating was here, the building looked as if it was still under construction or as if a cube was being eaten by a hyperbolic paraboloid, a mathematicians nightmare, not an elegant solution.  I understand the building was designed primarily for its life after the Olympics but there should have been more consideration for the short time it was in the spotlight.  It seems apparent to me that no consideration was given to the possibility of the Aquatic Center remaining as it is after the Olympics.  What if it is decided to keep the Aquatic Center as it is, with its full capacity, after the Olympics, would the architect stand by her design?  I would guess not, Hadid, a Londoner, did herself a disservice with this design. 

One other building worth noting is the Basketball Arena, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.  The arena is designed to be completely deconstructed after the Olympics and transported for reconstruction and reuse during the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil.  The design appears to be temporary as it is a fabric structure with its skin stretched over vertical trusses with varying profiles to give it texture, the roof in more regular and tent like.  This structure was designed for the two weeks it was in use and it served its function well.  Whether or not the building will actually be reused only time will tell but this is the type of thinking needed when designing for an event like the Olympics. 

Events like the quadrennial Olympic games require both long and short term planning.  It is a time when cities build new sports stadiums and entertainment venues, master plan new communities, and update existing infrastructure and transit.  It has to accommodate a large influx of people for two short weeks and decide what will come of those accommodations when those people have left.  City planners, designers, and architects, should always consider different scales and anticipate future changes or adjustments, not only when they are known in advance.  When designing for an event like the Olympics, that is temporary, there is more of an opportunity to demonstrate this awareness and create buildings that are adaptable.  London has both good and bad examples of this and I hope we call all learn from them.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Firmness, Utility, Delight


Vitruvius, the original author on architecture, stated that architectures function is firmitas, utilitas, and venustas, that is firmness, utility, and delight.  Firmness, of course, refers to the ability to stand up and resist the forces of man and nature, whether they be the heavy stone of the buildings of Vitruvius's time, wind, rain, snow, furnishings, or people.  Utility, again quite obviously, speaks to the fact that architecture serves a specific function.  This can be a very specific function as in a residential building that has rooms or areas designated for specific uses or a large community space that can accommodate many different functions.  This brings us to delight, a more ambiguous or subjective quality.  Certainly when Vitruvius wrote of delight he was pointing to the form, order, and proportion used in his day, the subject of his Ten Books on Architecture.  However, since the time of Vitruvius, some 500 years ago, our opinions of what brings delight have changed.  

Delight from architecture, or anything else for that matter, reflects personal taste, style, and culture.  Looking through a book on art history illustrates how much taste and culture has changed.  The fact that architecture is experienced in many different ways using all the senses it is important to point out that its delight may come in many forms.  One may enjoy the form from the outside, the view from the inside, its usefulness, the materials employed or countless other characteristics, but not others.  This leads me to wonder, what defines "delightful" architecture?  Put another way I could ask what defines “good” architecture.  Again, this can be quite subjective but I believe there are a number of characteristics of good architecture that could be agreed upon, looking beyond the firmness and utility of course.


The first characteristic of good architecture is that it respects its context.  Every piece of architecture exists in a specific place at a specific time and addressing this is paramount.  Context should be considered completely from the community through to the site and even on-site microclimates.  The siting of a building should consider orientation as it relates to its environmental context; the climate of the region, the sun, wind, the ecology of the site and surroundings, water bodies or wetlands, and migration patterns of local wildlife.  Likewise there is the man made infrastructure context; this can include utilities like power, water and sanitation, roads and public transportation, as well as nearby buildings and community resources.  Cultural context is also important to remember, this includes the character of the community, whether it is rural or urban, residential or commercial, what the local customs are and even the massing of the surrounding buildings and the predominant architectural styles.  


In addition to respecting context good architecture should respect its users, after all without users there is probably not much need for the architecture to begin with.  Speaking of which good architecture should address its primary function in direct relation with the people who will be using it.  This means bringing in the users during the design process to learn how the building will really be used, not designing it how you think it should be used.  To truly respect its users architecture needs to have comfortable and healthy interiors.  Much of this will relate to respecting its context, which I addressed above.  For instance, a building that has been poorly sited in its context and is left exposed to harsh summer sun may overheat and cause its occupants discomfort, so it should be stated that all these items relate to each other and should be considered holistically.  Providing a healthy indoor environment may include providing fresh air, access to daylight, and non-toxic finishes.  The fact that buildings cost money should also be a consideration.  A building may have a bold form or display an innovative use of materials but if its users can’t afford its operations and maintenance than it can’t serve its function.


I have a strong belief that architecture should also respect its time.  I have worked on both modern and historic buildings and find part of my love for architecture is in the fact that they are different.  Each with its own massing, form, materials, details, layout, character, I can go on and on, the point is that good buildings are of their time.  To build a modern building to look like a historic building to me is disrespecting both the past and the present.  On the one hand it’s like telling our predecessors, “we can do better than you” and on the other we are telling our contemporaries “you’re not good enough”.  So I think good architecture respects its own time and the issues of the day.  


Finally, good architecture should consider the future.  Buildings have a long life, hopefully beyond the lifetime of their designers and builders so they will be part of the future and so must consider that from the beginning.  Through its lifetime a building may serve many functions.  In New York City the Church of the Holy Communion, finished in 1845 has gone through many changes since it was a church it has become a nightclub and now a market, the Limelight Marketplace.  Surely if this wasn’t good architecture it would have been torn down a while ago.  This brings up another point when considering the future; what will happen to the materials when the building is demolished?  Is it full of toxic materials that have no value and will be thrown in a landfill to pollute our air and water, or can it be deconstructed or reused?


Green building has been growing over the past decade, it has had some false starts in past decades but it looks like it’s finally catching on.  These buildings, in my view, best demonstrate the qualities I described above.  Apart from a certification or a label I think defining good architecture is still subjective but we should hold it to certain high standards, it must respect its context, its users, its time, and it must consider the future.  I might be so bold to update Vitruvius and say regardless of style in order for architecture to be considered good, or even great, it must be useful, appropriate, and thoughtful.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Exhibit Review: Aesthetics/Anesthetics at the Storefront for Art and Architecture

Storefront for Art and Architecture

The Aesthetics/Anesthetics Exhibit has been going on for the past month at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York.  I had the pleasure of stopping by a couple of weeks ago to see the 30 pieces, each by an architect or artist.  For those of you who haven't been to the Storefront for Art and Architecture it is a small, roughly 1000 square foot wedge shaped space that hosts numerous exhibitions related to architecture each year.  The most recent exhibit offers 30 different interpretations of the space you are occupying as you view them.  The works range from graphics showing how the space relates to its larger context of the city, the neighborhood, the block, and the building, to detailed drawings of the space itself.  A majority of the works are two dimensional while a few add some dimension with model like qualities, one jumps out of its frame as a stylized model of the gallery. 

According to the website (storefrontnews.org) the purpose of the exhibit is "to reflect on the performing properties of architectural drawings..."  I think it accomplishes this successfully.  Some of the works are literal in their interpretation of the space, including Revolving Storefront an elegant plan model of the space by Superpool, while others are more abstract like Andres Jaque's Storefront is a Livingroom in the Galaxy!! which is an illustration depicting the power of the storefront as a community resource, and Storefronts New York by VisionArc which is mostly text.  

This diversity forces you to think about the space more completely, not just as the actual space but its full context.  Where the exhibit is its most successful is in the fact that the subject of each drawing is the space you are in.  This gives the viewer the opportunity to observe each drawing and subject at the same time, a rare treat.  Not only does this offer a view into the artists mind and how they see space, context, or purpose, but it brings into focus aspects of the space you weren't aware of as you stand within it.  After visiting the exhibit I felt more tuned into my surrounding, afraid I was missing something right in front of my face.  I encourage you to see the exhibit while it is still open, until July 28, 2012.  If you don't get a chance to make it you can view the exhibit online and each of the pieces is being auctioned to benefit the Storefront. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Public/Private Space

Public Space

Of all the things considered when designing, whether architecture or city planning, among the most important are private and public space, and the transition between the two.  There are times when the need is obvious, private space in a residence for instance, and other times when it's more ambiguous, such as in the case of privately owned public spaces where who the "public" is can be widely interpreted.  The move between private and public spaces can also vary from a well defined boundary to a more loose transition.  These ambiguities are increasing especially in this time of increased connectivity.

Throughout history the outdoors has been considered the ultimate public space.  For millennia people have gathered outdoors for the most basic of activities from celebrations, sharing news, preparing and consuming food, and socializing.  Outdoor public spaces can take many forms, there are spaces that have been deliberately created for this function and others that have been adopted by the local population to serve this function.  In our time the manifestation of outdoor public space has largely included public parks and town squares but also includes the streets and paths that connect us.  These are the places that fill with people to commemorate an event, like the Fourth of July, join a parade, or start a protest.  When not used for this type of large scale function outdoor public spaces offer a place of recreation and relaxation.  People often use a public park as one would use a private yard; reading a book, having a picnic, talking with friends, or just enjoying the space.  Others have used the town square to sell their wares, provide entertainment, and practice their right to free speech. 

Public space is key to the health of a community.  While providing a place for the activities mentioned above they also contribute to public health by providing fresh air and a place to exercise.  Access to public space also provides the opportunity to be around other people.  Humans are social creatures and have a inherent need to interact.  An active public space can offer this interaction.  Jane Jacobs in her book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" spoke of the security active streets offer, illustrating how public spaces and the surrounding community have a symbiotic relationship.  The value of public spaces offer to individuals and the community as a whole is undeniable.

More recently the shopping mall has become a type of public space.  While offering areas for some of the activities mentioned above the fact that retail centers are technically private spaces means that we do not necessarily have the same rights as we would in a truly public space.  A discussion of the pros and cons of this is sure to be a lively one but isn't the subject here so we'll save it for another time. 

Complementing public space is, of course, private space.  As with public space there are many different scales of private space.  The private space of your personal bedroom is quite different than the private space of a corporate office.  Regardless of the level of privacy a private space it is typically smaller than a public space, if for nothing else than the fact of a lower occupancy.  Historically private space has been as small as a bed or as large as a castle.  Either way it offers security, safety, and a place to rest.  Activities that society, or an individual, has determined are not appropriate for public are carried out in private.  Our society values personal space, whether a child or an adult we all want our own space.  This may be a space used for work, hobbies, self reflection or to wind down.  The best part of private space is we can do whatever we want.  As like public space, the value of private space is clear.

We seem to be entering an age where these two types of spaces are overlapping and, in some instances, shifting.  With the increased connectivity of the world and the rise of social media more and more traditionally public activities are taking place in private spaces.  The news media highlighted the role social media played during the so called Arab Spring in the Middle East towards the end of 2010.  This specific example demonstrates an overlap of traditional public and private spaces; people organizing, from their private space, protests to be carried out in the public space.  Generally this use of technology illustrates how people with common interests and/or goals can be brought together without the benefit of proximity, I would consider this one of its primary advantages. 
This type of shift in the relationship between public and private space is illustrated in the fact that people often use their private spaces to communicate with the public using online public forums.  More often than not the groups organized online or through social media never meet in a public space, in fact many participants may never leave their private spaces.  I write this now in my home office, in a room all alone, definitely a private space.  Where I start to see this shift as a detriment is in the fact that everyday people are making "friends" without ever meeting, while in their private space.  While this may not be harmful in itself, increased connectivity may negatively impact our interaction with the public.  I'll admit, the interaction available with the use of technology can be productive it doesn't yet offer the nuance, spontaneity, or physicality of real life interaction.  In the worse cases people are substituting online communication for real life contact.  While this can be quite troubling I don't think it is common enough to be cause for concern.

Where the biggest risk lies is the reduction of our public spaces.  If large numbers of our community are filling up on conversation and interaction in virtual public spaces will they still have a need, or desire, for our physical public spaces?  From my own observations it appears that many people don't want to interact in public.  I understand we don't always want to be social but it seems when walking on the street or taking public transportation people used to talk to each other and now they have their heads buried in some sort of device, trying to avoid the fact that they are in a public space.  I wonder, is one of the core functions of public space, to bring people together, is starting to disappear?  If it is the blame cannot be put solely on technology, there are other factors, but I would argue it is the main factor. 

Technology has given us many reasons not to use public space.  It has increased private mobility with the automobile, allowing us to travel to distant places without ever having to interact with someone we don't choose.  We now have abundant at home entertainment with the television and video games so we don't need to leave the house to have fun.  When I was young outside was my entertainment, many children now stay in for theirs.  Often we don't even need to leave the house to go shopping.  In fact the rise of social media may be the most beneficial technology for public space, reminding us that sometimes we need to literally stand together as was seen during the Arab Spring. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Integrated Design.


If you are planning a construction project, whether it's a new office complex or a home addition there is a good chance you will not be the one doing the actual design or construction.  Sure you'll have input, it is your project after all, but you hire professionals because they have the expertise you lack.  The majority of construction projects follow the "design-bid-build" formula.  That is you hire an architect to design your building or addition, use the drawings to secure your building permit, solicit bids from a number of contractors, award the project, usually to the lowest bidder, and have it built.  Using this process each step is distinctly its own and there is very little, if any, interaction between the design and construction teams, both of which you hired.  You may in fact find that the architect and the contractor bad mouth each other.  If this is the case you run the risk that what was designed and what gets built may not quite align. 

With the design-bid-build process decisions are largely made based solely on cost.  A more holistic, some would say better, way of making these decisions is through integrated design.  Integrated design is just what it sounds like, integrated, joined together.  The entire project team, both design and construction teams, is assembled at the start and works together for the duration of the project.  That means you don't have a set of drawings to show a contractor before s/he's hired, you have to interview contractors and select one, not based on cost but on the value they bring to the table.  In this sense you are using similar criteria to hire a contractor that you would to hire an architect or other design professional. 

While the owner will be ultimate decision maker regarding the project s/he can make more informed decisions with input from the design and construction teams and set overall goals for the project in terms of scope, performance, and cost.  By facilitating a dialog between the design and construction teams early in the project each team member is able to share their thoughts and concerns on how to reach those goals.  The construction team will be able to assess how design decisions will affect construction and solutions to potential problems can be discussed while still in the design phase.  Additionally, the design team will be able to anticipate construction activities and adjust the design accordingly.  Everyone knows it's a lot easier, and cheaper, to change the design when it's still ink on paper than when they are brick and mortar. 

When the construction team is included in the design process they have a complete understanding of the design and there is buy-in.  The construction team, by being a part of the design phase and providing input on design decisions, has effectively endorsed the design.  After taking part in this process the construction team will work its hardest to ensure a successful project.  Additionally, by being a part of the design phase the construction team will be able to more accurately price the job.  Thorough discussions on how design decisions affect construction should lead to a full understanding of the project.  This should reduce the amount of change orders and help keep the project on schedule meaning the owner can be more confidant in the prices submitted by the construction team. 

Each phase of the project will move more smoothly with continued communication.  When construction starts the construction team will have an intimate knowledge of the design and will know the reasoning behind each decision.  If additional changes are required in the field it is important that the entire team understand the full implication of all decisions, which is more likely with integrated design.  By discussing all issues that arise after the start of construction with the entire team solutions can be reached that everyone agrees with and will help meet the projects goals.    

With a full understanding the design throughout the project, continued communication, and collective problem solving the project team should be able to deliver a building that all those involved are proud of.   By making decisions based on value, not cost, and with the entire project team, the final result of integrated design is a quality building that meets the owners goals while working towards a better way of building. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Are You Indigenous?




Indigenous is defined on dictionary.com as "originating in and characteristic of a particular region or country; native".   It is often used to describe native people, there customs, and architecture.  I would describe indigenous architecture as that which uses locally available resources manipulated those familiar with the material to provide shelter appropriate to the local climate and culture.  This can include simple, nomadic shelters, which can be portable, like a tipi, or seasonal, like an igloo.  There is also more permanent indigenous architecture such as southwestern adobe pueblos and Mediterranean cave dwellings.  One thing that these examples share is there purely functional aesthetic.  However there are examples of indigenous architecture that include ornamentation and more "architectural" forms such as the elaborately painted Ndebele painted houses and the dramatic tongkonan of Indonesia.  However, indigenous architecture shouldn't be associated solely with native people from times past, it should be considered for all people in all times, even our own. 

Peter Caradonna, for whom I work, once gave a lecture that started with a question:  Who here is indigenous?  One or two people of the 50 person crowd raised their hands.  If we aren't indigenous that what are we?  The same dictionary.com entry noted above included antonyms of indigenous as "foreign, alien".  So if we are not indigenous are we then foreign?  Where I live, in the United States, many people would take offense to that, so maybe we need to reevaluate how we interpret indigenous.

If you were to ask an American to give an example of indigenous people the most common answer would be American Indians.  Ask them to name some characteristic traits of these indigenous people and you are likely to get answers that include a deep appreciation for the earth, respect for tradition, and awareness of their heritage.  Nobel traits regardless of your origin.  Traits that that some may say are lacking in our current society. 

Prior to the industrial revolution much architecture around the world would have fit my description of indigenous simply due to the fact that it wasn't economical to bring in exotic materials for buildings.  Additionally, the import of new and unfamiliar materials would often require the import of the skilled labor necessary to have it installed.  With the rise of technology and transportation it became more economical to bring in non-regional materials.  Advances in technology also saw the emergence of more standardized building materials symbolizing a loss of the connection to local materials.  Following this standardization of materials came the standardization of aesthetic personified by the International Style of architecture. 

The acceptance, and promotion by many leading architect of the time, of a singular International Style can be seen as the turning point away from the elements of indigenous architecture that made it valuable to its occupants and culture.  People love to travel because it exposes them to something new.  We visit different places to eat their food, listen to their music, see their architecture, experience their culture.  Increased globalization is increasing homogenization, I've traveled to different states and seen the same style housing, the same strip malls, the same food, I had to search out the things that made it unique. 

There is currently very little regional variation as far as building materials are concerned, the local lumber yard in New York and Arizona stock the same items, therefore the skill set of the labor force differs very little based on location.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is a part of the culture of our time, an ever shrinking world with ever growing technology.  Another element of indigenous architecture that has largely been lost is its relationship to local conditions, specifically climate and culture.  While some try to mimic the styles of the past it is often done without regard to why it was done in the past, which was usually a direct response to specific local conditions whether it be materials, climate, or use.  Even if the reasoning is understood, indigenous architecture isn't about copying the past, it's about addressing the specific needs of the place in which it exists. 

Modern, or contemporary, indigenous architecture can take the form of the favelas of Brazil or the High Line in New York.  It is about its time and place so it is ever changing.  If we think of ourselves as indigenous, we're all indigenous to somewhere, we can think of our architecture as indigenous and create an architecture of our time and place to serve our needs.  I'm not a sociologist but maybe if we reconsidered our indigenousness we would approach things differently and feel more of an ownership to the place we are indigenous to.  With ownership comes pride, which demands thoughtfulness, which will result in art, architecture, culture that is more unique and appropriate to its time and place.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Welcome.


Greetings!
Welcome to the a for architecture blog, intended to share thoughts on architecture, green building, and whatever else might come up.  I hope you'll participate and help make it a great place to share thoughts.    

So, why "A for Architecture"?  well, there's the obvious, architecture starts with the letter "a", and it's almost like the start of a cheer...Give me an A!  but it goes beyond that. 

There is often talk of architecture with a capital "A" which refers to high design architecture, the notable projects that are published and studied, so called "real" architecture.  Everyone has their own view of what "capital A" architecture is, many think of large commercial or institutional buildings designed by so called "starchitects."  However, it can be argued that all architecture has the potential of being "capital A" architecture to those who inhabit those places.  Most architects strive to design "capital A" architecture. 

We all know, or we all should know, the alphabet starts with the letter "a".  The first letter of the, or any, alphabet is often used to refer to a beginning, as in a start of a list or the term alpha referring to the beginning or start. Architecture represents beginnings and is often a beginning itself, the beginning of a business, a new phase of life, a new adventure or discovery.  Humanitarian architecture, by the likes of Habitat for Humanity or Architecture for Humanity, typically isn't considered "capital A" architecture by critics but it definitely represents beginnings for their occupants, better beginnings. 

This is my beginning.  Enjoy