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Richard Coleman on buildings that speak

COSMIC RHYTHM - Impy Pilapil - The Philippine Star
Richard Coleman on buildings that speak

Richard Coleman: Architecture, like art, should inspire not just the dweller, or the viewer but also humanity in general.

As designer and sculptor, I have met and become quite good friends with many practicing architects. We learn much from each other and we have a deep understanding of how things work ideologically and professionally. Yet, perhaps very few of my friends and acquaintances in the profession have ever explained to me the true essence and colossal significance of architecture quite like Richard Coleman has.

“Buildings that speak…” I remember from the first of his talks that I attended at ISIP Center about 15 years ago. These words resonate within me still. There is truth in these words that speak to our sensitivities and compel us to ponder upon our relevance as a society in a global, no, a universal perspective. And it pains me when I see troubling examples of the ostentatious disregard for sensibility or the blatant disrespect for originality that many new buildings and structures have opted for — derivative and uninspired or garish and unnecessary.

Inspired by the belief that architecture can change a human being’s emotions, ideals, and perspectives, Coleman teaches us that the relevance of design sensitivity, forward thinking, and preservation is essential to our society no matter how insignificant we may think we are as a small nation, still trying to find our own footing in the greater world picture.

Richard Coleman and his partners have developed their own method of assessment, which draws on the scientific observations initially propagated by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe and later developed by the anthroposophist, Rudolf Steiner.

The Arundel Estate on Arundel Street, London is a set of rectangular buildings whose relationship to the historic townscape context is negative. Lying on Aldwych, they profoundly affect the setting of the Grade I listed St. Clement Danes Church and the Temple Inns of Court. Reconfiguring the floor space, while breaking down the scale and bulk, was a major challenge.

As a strong believer in anthroposophical practice and an avid supporter of Coleman’s work, I have learned that the principle is rooted in the belief that architecture, like art, should inspire not just the dweller, or the viewer but also humanity in general. Where man-made structures serve a simple functional purpose like homes; or complex, multipurpose ones such as museums or office buildings must also enrich society and elevate cultural consciousness — to move progressively into the future.

Today, May 20, he is the keynote speaker for the UP Master of Architecture in Heritage Conservation — “Preserving and Enhancing the Settings of Heritage Assets: Learning From Mistakes.” On Tuesday, May 23, 6:30 p.m., Coleman is giving a talk on design: “City Integrity: Past and Present” — this is open to the public. More upcoming events include another open-to-the-public talk at Ayala Malls, which will be announced shortly. Please take the time and listen to what this most important voice in modern architecture has to share.

Richard Coleman is an architect and urban designer from the United Kingdom, specializing in design assessment, heritage intervention, and townscape enhancement. Following an early career restoring and adapting both Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace, he ran the UK’s Royal Commission on Design Review for 13 years. Since then, for 20 years, he has led Citydesigner, a consultancy of 12 architects, urban designers, and historians, collaborating on challenging and innovative projects involving modern design in relation to heritage sites.

Richard is co-founder and chairman of, chairman of the Architecture Club UK, and has lectured at Oxford University, the Royal Academy, Copenhagen University, Iloilo Heritage Society, Ayala Museum, ISIP Center, among others.

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