Alexandra Mokbel
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Architecture and Millennials: Building a Generation

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I can only imagine the expression on your face the second you read this article’s title.

You might ask yourself, what possible relation can there be between millennials and architecture, and why do I even try to bring them together.

The truth is, I still can’t put my finger on their interconnectivity. All I know is that today, millennials are the center of all conversations, and architecture has always been present in our everyday lives. More than that, in the fast-paced world we are living in today, I can’t help but notice that people we call “millennials” have started to lose interest in some traditions, behaviors and beliefs that have been around for decades. Nevertheless, they’ve never stopped believing and loving the world of architecture and design. They’ve even transformed this industry and developed it based on their own outlook on life as we know it and all it has to offer.

That’s why I decided to curiously seek to find the basis of the connection that makes architecture win the hearts and minds of millennials.

Rem Koolhass  once defined the millennial period as a combination of the Renaissance period and the worst Armageddon.

So, hey! There’s our first connection. They are both historical concepts!

What else?

We can safely say that both architecture and millennials need patience and balance, and both have an abstract concept of impact, where one really makes an impact and the other, well, pretends to make an impact. Not giving any names here.

Moreover, both create chaos – each one in its own personal way – both want to surround themselves with things that reflect their personalities and finally they both need approval; one of its architect and the other one of its society. Still not giving names.

I don’t believe that we have found the true meaning and definition of millennials yet. In its pure definition, it is the group of people reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century. So, that makes me a millennial, it probably makes you a millennial too, and I am willing to bet that the person sitting next to you is a millennial. So, as you can tell, this clearly isn’t about millennials – or is it? Keep reading, it gets interesting.

"Living in a moment" by Cristina Tabet - Mykonos 2018
"Living in a moment" by Cristina Tabet - Mykonos 2018

For some, millennials are the new visionaries, the opposite of the status quo, the safe revolution of a rebel. For others, millennials create meaningless and worthless chaos, they are entitled and tough to manage. No matter your definition, it always goes back to our environment because at the end of the day, we are what our environment shaped us to be. Our parents, our house, our friends, our neighborhood, our upbringing etc. and it is this idea of environment that goes full circle to get back to architecture. Why and how? Because, architecture is what shapes our environment in a literal way. It builds the settings and atmospheres around us and thus, architecture is what we choose to surround ourselves with.

From here on, to avoid repetition, let’s call millennials X and architecture Z. While X thrives for instant fulfillment and gratification, Z requires slow growth. While X longs for ephemeral satisfaction, Z aspires for eternal satisfaction. But as Z aims to turn concepts into reality, X is here to change this reality, defying the credibility of Aristotle’s theory, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Another way to relate both X and Z is to see how they both react to minimalistic possessions. In fact, a close friend of mine once shed light on the importance of a moment; Explaining how, it is a bare necessity of our everyday life. A moment is the least we need to exist and what gives meaning to our lives. Because in a moment, you can live instants that are more meaningful that anything you’ve longed for. Life has moved from being all about the vast to caring about the instant and the detail. It has now evolved to being careful about the little moments that we are able to capture, live, experience, appreciate and share.

In that spirit, architecture is being redefined in a way that millennials are digging and creating a completely different path, redefining the road of design and architecture. It is now all about minimalistic creations, whether in art or architecture, it has become about what you can feel, touch and experience within few seconds. Aesthetics and appreciation must be felt; impact has to become instant.

Even though Millenials are seen as a “crisis”, they are reinventing Architecture as we know it and this is exactly what the world needs today. According to resources, famous architect Khalil Khoury  (father of Architect Bernard Khoury) was keen to develop a new generation of architects who would explore the role of an architect in the development of society. Each one of us could interpret this in our own personal way but let’s explore it: You are a young architect ready to conquer the world with your ideas and your genius when you suddenly meet Mr. Khalil Khoury. As the two of you have a chat, do you believe he would be pleased and proud with today’s generation? Would he appreciate your actions and approach to architecture? Would he be interested in listening to your analysis, your method of creating, constructing or designing?  Would your vision interest him? Is your rebellion effective or plain materialistic? Do you think that the world we live in, is what he’d envisioned for us? And most importantly, can you convince him that you are on the right path, that you are recreating and reshaping the future in a way that no other generation would have? Well, after reading, over and over again his original thought to “develop a new generation of architects who would explore the role of the architect in the development of society”, I would argue that, we are not far at all.

“Just for a moment” by Alexandra Mokbel - Oman 2018
“Just for a moment” by Alexandra Mokbel - Oman 2018

You no longer need the 25-square meter space as a living area; today you just need a couch and a TV. You no longer need the 30-square meter bedroom, you just need your bed and your phone. It has become that easy! And that is the direction millennials are taking in today’s view of architecture. More and more architects are shifting from grandiose luxury (despite the media’s overwhelming obsession with “bigness”) to simplicity and clarity. More than ever, architecture is embracing its role, influencing and embracing the society dynamics. So, if we go back to our idea of moments and making them count, turning them into a “big” trend, then even the media will be fascinated by the moments. Safe to say that Architecture has and always will, play a role in defining values, visions and lifestyles.

Is it our mission to continuously improve, break the status quo, and rebel against what is known. Once we complete that shift, do you think that we will have fulfilled Khalil Khoury’s vision? Will we be the generation that Khalil Khoury had hoped for?

We might be entitled and tough to manage but we are the generation who dares, the one who dreams, the generation who is optimistic about the future and who is breaking free from all that has become cliché or unbreakable. We are content creators, thriving on collaboration, teamwork and personal beliefs.

We have the potential and the thirst needed. We just need to put our ideas and words into action. And if these ideas and actions can create more minimalistic aesthetically approachable and instantly impactful shapes, designs and places, then, why not link millennials to architecture after all!

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( 4 comments )

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  • Tatiana

    Amazingggg!!!

    February 12, 2019
  • Zeina

    Love this! (And the writer❤️)

    February 12, 2019
  • Reya

    So insightful, inspiring, and INCREBILE Lexou! So proud!

    February 12, 2019
  • Nadim

    So inspring & creative. An architect of words & thoughts. Bravo Alex!

    February 12, 2019