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New Left Review I/10, July-August 1961

Philip Aldis

Churchill Gardens

nikolus pevsner opens his Outline of European Architecture by defining the distinction between “buildings” and “architecture”. “Nearly everything that encloses space on a scale sufficient for a human being to move in is a building: the term architecture applies only to buildings designed with a view to aesthetic appeal”. This is, I think, a wrong approach to art. I am certain that it is a wrong approach to architecture, which is essentially concerned with forming, in a specific place, a setting for specific human needs and activities: which is, that is, functional. Functional, of course, is a word much used to distinguish modern architecture and as such it has many different meanings: it is both a style, for example, and also an insistence that buildings are primarily intended to be used and that this use must be catered for practically and efficiently. But use implies users, who are people, and what I want to insist is that a really functional architecture must start from human needs, and that discussion about architecture must be discussion about buildings and an environment in which people have to live almost all their lives.

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