How can architecture be democratic?


How can architecture be democratic?

The essence of democracy is the autonomy and autonomy of the people based on their own rights, and its characteristics are manifested in equality and participation. If democracy means a more equitable public way of life in architecture, then this way of life depends on the homogenization of the spatial structure of the building, with open, transparent and functionally diverse public spaces. It is also possible to affirm that the birth, the maintenance and the disappearance of democracy all occurred in the public space.

The democratic regime of Athens began in the 6th century BC. The square became a meeting place, a symbol of the democratic policy of architecture. Although people’s access to assembly has become more widespread and convenient as technology has advanced, the existence of public space in the city remains critical, representing the spatial demands of citizens’ public rights at the beyond the basic conditions of survival and fulfilling an important spiritual function of expressing democracy. So how can architecture be democratic? How to achieve the public character of architecture?

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1. Homogenization of space

Herman Herzberg proposed the concept of spatial equivalence, believing that “spatial organization should not reinforce the hierarchy between people” and that “we can at least avoid emphasizing hierarchy and replace it with a structure space which adopts a system of equality”. The concept of spatial equivalence refers to the homogenization of unitary space, the elimination of hierarchical divisions of space and the creation of a fair and objective spatial environment, undeniably representative of democratic politics. By dissolving volume, boundaries and scale, the homogenization of space can eliminate the hierarchical difference of space and achieve the equality of space.

Longyan/Tianjin Workers’ Cultural Palace HHDesign

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West facade of building #2. Image © Arch-Exist

The volume of the Longyan Workers’ Cultural Palace is reduced by raising the first floor and “hollowing” the superstructure. The elevation of the first floor returns the space to the city and to the street, transforming it into a “square” that the public visits daily. The whole volume of the upper part is cut by a large number of semi-exterior spaces in the form of terraces of various scales and positions, which serve as a communication hub for the workers as well as an extension of the interior functions. The upper terrace mirrors the raised lower level, which is connected by various paths to create a continuous and equal space.

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Building #1 open concept. Image © Arch-Exist

Flower Station / TJAD Original Design Studio

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Space farm. Image © Jie Fan

To create a large expanse of open space, the Flower House Station uses a central volume + space grid structural system. The applicability of people is not limited by the fixed boundary of the building due to the integration of indoor-outdoor space. The three-dimensional flow line distorts the level relationship. Stairs are used to connect platforms of different heights, giving visitors a free choice of sightseeing routes from top to bottom and from inside to outside.

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Integrated space and space roaming path. Image © Jie Fan

Dongyuan Qianxun Community Center / Bureau of Scenic Architecture

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© Dongyuan Design

The courtyard design of Dongyuan Qianxun Community Center breaks with the traditional large-volume design of public buildings, creating a human scale and a kind of people-friendly space atmosphere. Using alternately stacked shear walls, continuous wall enclosures and “open” wall connections are designed to create a flowing courtyard-like space. The combination of small volumes dissolves the scale and creates a very accessible community architecture.

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© Su shengliang

2. Opening the form

The concept of visibility of public space is then visually perceived as an urban space that is easy to see and reach, providing evidence of how citizens can participate in, shape and construct public life. The visibility of public space in urban streets reflects the right of citizens to participate in democratic spaces. Lowering access conditions and “opening up” public spaces to a welcoming position are crucial elements in achieving urban inclusion.

Pocket Plaza / Archmixing Workshop

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Public space for residents and the public. Image © Pingnan Chen

The Pocket Plaza in lane 309 is in the middle of Yongjia Road. The public space is designed as a small square enclosed by open corridors. The floor of the square is 0.5m higher than Yongjia Road, providing a sense of territory and an interesting view of the cityscape. The plaza’s red floor tiles were chosen to provide a contrast to the green steel columns, giving the plaza a more relaxed everyday feel while improving its visibility.

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View from the southwest of the square to the city street. Photo © Qingshan Wu

Qixian Municipal Library XiafangQiao / Leeko Studio

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Life under a large roof. Image © Yong Zhang

After the library was completed, the Grand Staircase became a popular place for Water Street residents to relax and socialize on a daily basis. The staircase connects the indoor reading space with the outdoor public square, and the large roof above the staircase emphasizes the existence of the space as an extension of the interior space of the library. During the day it serves as a public living room for Water Street, and on weekends the city government screens outdoor movies here and residents gather to form a public community cinema with the urban library as a backdrop. .

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Great stairs as seats for watching movies. Image © Yong Zhang

Yulin Alley / Nhoow Architects

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© ICYWORKS

Chengdu Yulin East Road Community and Wuhou District Disabled People’s Federation commissioned Yulin Alley to create a disability-friendly community space, encouraging people with disabilities to step out of their homes and expand their life circle. We hope that everyone can easily participate in social activities. Inspired by Japanese “engawa” and Chinese “beauty lean on (chair-back balustrade)”, part of the outdoor space is elevated to form a seat, creating a new closed and open space.

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© ICYWORKS

3. Humanization of functions

Democratic public space is open to all and allows for diverse cultural expressions by individuals and groups. Consider the diverse needs of different groups in the space and respect individual differences to reinforce the public nature of the space. The weakening of architecture and the strengthening of human experience bring democratic, just and equal spatial qualities to space, which is part of the humanized expression of architectural function.

Qinchang Village Hall / Studio 10

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Two-story gallery with cafe-library on the east side. Photo © Chao Zhang

The courtyard-centric spatial planning strategy is used for the Qinchang Village Town Hall, with the volumes divided into three small houses staggered on three sides of the site to reinforce the street frontage. The multifunctional outdoor space of the courtyard also serves as a gathering place for villagers of different ages to socialize and participate in activities, complementing, balancing and enriching the ritual courtyard of the West Court.

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General view of the east street. Photo © Chao Zhang

Revitalization of Shenyang Dongmaoku / URBANUS

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Exterior night view. Image © Tianpei Zeng

Warehouses No. 2 and No. 4 of the Eastern Commercial Warehouse Urban Renewal Project are the ones that have actually been completed. Warehouse #2 is transformed into a community library, replacing the traditional reading room with a park model based on the greenhouse concept. Warehouse #4 has been transformed into a marketing and exhibition center, with gardening techniques used to enhance and enrich the greenhouse experience. The two completed warehouses are connected and transformed into a community center over 200 meters long, which serves as a view from below for a civic park. The rustic industrial heritage, such as the old warehouse, is designed and transformed to provide a common outlet for the identity of various social groups.

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Reading garden. Image © Tianpei Zeng

Community Without Borders by Zi Ni Douze Portails / FEI Architects

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Vertical community. Photo © Qingling Zheng

The two-story, 6.9-meter-high factory space is made up of seven different house designs. “The space without borders” designed here for the occupants’ life without borders completely defies convention; you can hold a painting exhibition in the living room, work in the garden, meet in the bathroom, etc. The borderless community formed by spaces that shatter boundaries and definitions allows users to immerse themselves in a spatial experience that opens the brain and stimulates imagination and creativity.

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Alley space in the building. Photo © Qingling Zheng

This article is part of the ArchDaily topics: Democratizing Design. Each month we explore a topic in depth through articles, interviews, news and projects. Learn more about our ArchDaily topics. As always, at ArchDaily, we welcome contributions from our readers; if you want to submit an article or a project, contact us.

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