Life, Love, Architecture

“Quality architecture to me is when a building manages to move me. What on earth is it that moves me? One word for it is atmosphere.” – Peter Zumthor, Atmospheres

How do we create places that are meaningful?  How does design impact our every day lives?  How do emotions, perceptions and architecture intertwine to create memories?  I’m curious to explore how architecture and urban design can set the stage for helping us form memories to last a lifetime in a city that I love – Phoenix.

Chase and a school friend hug under the twinkle lights on the Duck & Decanter patio. Laughter, music and food contribute to the atmosphere. Instagram photo by Christina Noble.

Design Matters

What’s interesting to me is the intertwining of architecture, urban design and feelings as we look back through our lives.  As we sift through our memories the feelings of a space may remain while the physical details fade – this doesn’t mean that architecture is unimportant or even a passive, innocent bystander.

Architecture and design are active participants in how our lives play out. If a restaurant is too loud, we may avoid dinner there with our grandparents; if it’s a warm, sunny day we may seek a park shaded by trees on the weekend with the kids; if the only bike route to work involves cars speeding by at 50mph, we’ll most likely opt to hop into our own car as well.

These decisions impact what we eat, how we spend quality time with family, and our health.  Even though we may not be fully aware – design matters.

Physical space mixes and mingles with our emotions in ways we probably don’t even consciously realize unless we stop to look around and notice our surroundings.

Space Impacts Emotions

In the morning I take my son, Chase, to school.  I leave down a narrow, deeply shaded hall, both of us waving as he sits in a tiny blue chair on the edge of the playground. He’s framed by the opening at the end of the hall as the sun hits his hair so that he glows.  The look on his face is sometimes sad or concerned about being left, other times eager to run off with his friends.  Every morning I think about how beautiful this specific image is of Chase. I want to remember.

Architecture mixed with life triggers emotions.  I want to hold on to this moment so strongly because I love him.

From a more intellectual perspective what also triggers my desire is the visual image created by our surroundings.  I notice the beauty in the moment because of the contrast between light and shadow, the building’s and the playground’s relationship to the sun, and how Chase is framed by an opening washed in light at the end of a shaded, long hall. What matters are the feelings and the emotion, but what sets it all up for me to notice and to feel that it matters are our surroundings – the architecture.


This is only one small example where architecture and emotion come together to engrain a lasting memory. I hope to explore this idea through a series of articles as well as brief thoughts or images posted to social media.   I don’t have a defined path and I don’t know where this will culminate.  I’m hopeful you’ll go down the rabbit hole with me and turn this into a broader conversation about what makes Arizona memorable, why we love our home, and how we create place.

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