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  • Writer's pictureHassan Ragab

The city is a contextual human condition.

They didn't teach me psychology in architecture school, maybe architectural school does.

Good schools will teach you sacred geometry, biomimicry, structural engineering, natural lighting, and materials (I'm guessing you went to a really, really good architectural school). Crowd flow and circulation even. But I never heard of the term human behavior that comes from a certain context. Luckily enough, when I was in my final year and even one year after graduation, I took part in urban study projects where we had the chance to study urban developments for pre-existing historic areas. It's there when I first had to conduct interviews with the locals, listen to their stories and add that to some data points that we could later take part in a SWOT Analysis.

The fact is, as architects, we do not usually build for a person or a group of people; we rather build for the city. For me, the city is a contextual human condition. The city does not serve a generation or a certain era. It bears witness to the human condition of what many would call Civilization or progress. The city has and will outlast all of us (well, at least until the apocalypse). And the city will live by its own rules; and will do its corrections to whatever us, poor architects, will do to it.

When I say we build for the city, we don't only build for the physical and logistical requirements of a group of people who share the same geography. The city ghosts of people who lived, live, and will yet to see the first light within its streets hold steadily many layers that make us human. The city's most magical powers are those intangible ones. And to investigate that, one often needs to learn about history, the buildings, and most importantly; the people.

As an architectural practitioner, I see modern architecture in complete divorce from the emotional needs of the people who are to occupy their creations. Not to say that this is even possible. While "Good" architects will spare no effort in providing great experiences for the people through hard work and brilliant studies, research, and technological innovations; It's only possible (In the world of DATA that we live in today, where DATA is the most acceptable currency in, well, everything) for architects to turn people's needs into tangible requirements that they can use and then implement. So, while they (we) can provide the user (human) with well-studied physical means of comfort, They would often neglect that what makes you, you has more to do with your soul than it is with your body (this might sound like spiritual shit, but actually it's true, you are who you are because of your entire experience in life(in addition to what the algorithms need you to be), which is intangible and indeed unmeasurable.

This leads me finally to my point (I doubt you have reached this far, although it's not a lot, but I am quite the chatter I know), Is that in a design world that has been nose-diving into computation, natural, sustainable for only those with money and Meta AR/VR world, The rise of AI while providing these sectors with a lot of growth opportunities, it also presents them with a lot of challenges (I'm not gonna fucking get into that now). It seems that (at least for me) AI presents a great opportunity to explore this intangible realm. That is a conclusion I am getting at after spending every waking hour trying to see what the hell is that thing for the past two years. At that point, we all know that the little we know about Gen AI is that it's extremely dynamic, extremely powerful and the pace of development is un-fucking-believable. Yet, It presents us with a unique chance to test the intangible. If there is a new vocabulary that we can really novelty learn from, one that AI might not think of intuitively when the AGI arrives; Is that we remember the city, we remember the people that we are building for, and that all our knowledge, all our dreams and all our wealthy clients, are just dust in the wind!.

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