It seems to me that there's a disconnect between architecture that
architects prefer and architecture that non-architects prefer,
GENERALLY. For instance, large corporations tend to hire big-name
architects to design new headquarters done up in the avant-garde mode
of design, then the big wigs at that corporation notoriously go home
to Colonial Revival homes. Has anyone heard a good reason for this?
Is there a good reason why architects expect avant-garde designs to
resonate with the rest of the public?
Is there a reason that the architectural industry, as a whole, has
turned its back on traditional design, which is widely recognized,
accepted, and more culturally rooted in our society that avant-garde
I don't mean to be on a soap box here (or maybe I do), but I haven't
gotten more than "We're smart, they're stupid" and "It's reactionary"
from even my smartest colleagues and ex-professors.
Don't architects have a responsibility to the public to create a
recognizable, understandable (familiar), and beautiful built public
envirinment through which to navigate and safely live their lives?
FYI, I have no qualms with avant-garde architecture for personal use
when it's removed from public context.
I hope to learn a thing or two from this large group of practitioners,
teachers, and afficianados.
You'll find (if you look) that Joe Public doesn't "get" avant-
gardism. Peolpe know what a church is supposed to look like to read
as a church; the same goes for courthouses and libraries, houses,
office buildings- the typology list is quite long.
If there's no responsibilty to the Public, especially with regard to
public buildings, who's willing to leave a legacy of screwing up the
civic domain because someone paid you to? Think- if I gave you a
million dollars, would you screw up your favorite place with a design
I dominated (as a client)?
No one has spoken to the cultural traditions of a place and how they
are abandoned by non-traditional architecture. See? No one really
seems to give a sh*t!
On Feb 25, 12:54 am, email@example.com wrote:
My first architectural job was with TAC in Cambridge MA, then (1960)
considered very avant-guard. When I complained about the design of a
developer's project, one partner told me "All architecture is 90% crap, here
we are lucky and only have to produce 50% crap." Another standard to
remember is that 50% of all Architects (as well as all other professionals)
are below average, unfortunately the below average ones don't know it.
I really appreciate everyone's candor and patience with my ranting. I
look forward to the rest of my career being fulfilling for me and
rewarding for my clients. I've been blessed with my mentors and
employers, and the future looks bright through my eyes- especially
considering the current American Renaissance getting started as I
enter the meaty part of my career.
Please accept my apology if I've stepped on your toes with my posts.
I'm sure you all are perfectly thrilled with the work you've done, and
we've all made the world what it is today- which, in the end, is
I realize that this 180d change in my perspective must come as a
shock, given my earlier posts. I re-read them and realized how
negative they were and how my frustration must have been contagious.
I'm sure everything will work out fine in the end. I'll do what I can
to make the world a better place, as I'm sure you all will do as much
as you feel you need to.
Thanks for the conversation so far, and I hope to truly learn
something from this group of clearly experienced architects,
designers, and afficianados.
Have you got a 'professional degree? The reason I ask is that the question
you 've asked has been covered from various points of view in a number of
books. If you had the professional degree, you'd have bumped into these by
now, depending I guess on where you went to school.
Do you mean "Do you have a BArch?"
No, not yet. I have a BA in Architecture. I chose to forego the
fifth year at my undergrad alma mater, which I suspect will work in my
favor in the long run (allow me to get my BArch or MArch from a more
prestigious school). I worked as a framer and landscape installer
during college summers, which were really good experiences.
"Prestigious" school don't mean crap. NOBODY ever asks where I went to
school before I get a job. Maybe later it comes up...and I went to a
"prestigious" ranked architecture school. They were a bunch of idiots,
too...sure there were a professor or two who I respected, but for the
most part... Man, were they happy to see me graduate.
Hehe In the first year, mid-term "sinking or swimming" evaluation, they told
me to go to an "American school" because I might "do well" there. Once I
saw the tuitions on the east coast, I came back and hacked a swath through
the BS for people who had their own ideas. Lots of staff never worked there
again after I was done.
I meant a degree that leads to certification, wherever it is that you are,
as opposed to a technology program. There tends to be some 'discourse' on
the more philosophical/political aspects of architecture at the first sort
Four years in one must have been plenty of time for someone seriously
interested in the issue, whether the local pedagogy wanted it or not, to
have come across numerous books on the subject that would have been
published between 1978 and about 1990. (I don't follow what the chattering
classes are saying about architecture since I went into practice. Every once
in a while the media publish something and I am reassured that it is 95%
I was going to school between 81 and 87 and even in my school, where it was
vigorously discouraged, there was a contingent of people who advocated for a
traditional approach to design at a considerable cost to their grade point
I've always advocated for the freedom to design any way you want to and for
clients to be able to choose whatever type of design they want. In the real
world of politics and marketing, especially when it come so large public
commissions, this is never really accomplished. The 'discourse' is
tirelessly managed by elites, and people who spend public money are
constantly having dreams where they are naked in front of that public. For
the foreseeable future I expect large public commissions to be
non-orthogonal, with a fair portion displaying what passes for "wit".
The last big advocate for traditionalism that I noticed was R.M. Stern.
I'm an architect and don't like 90% of what I see in the trade rags. I
also like modern architecture.
I worked with a guy who really dug A.M. Stern. Go figure.
They want a building that "says" something. Most of the time it says
"crap", but, like the fashion runways, it's the fashionable thing to do
at the time. Unlike the fashion runways, clothes can be closeted. As
Frank Lloyd Wright said "A doctor can always bury his mistakes. An
architect can only advise his clients to go and plant vines."
Plus what Pat said... it's hard to scale "traditional" at today's
building prices. Correctly done "traditional" will cost way more than
"correctly" done modernism, even if its big budget crap.
I don't. In fact, I'm not sure what you're talking about. It's the
client that lets it happen. If the client didn't demand that Libeskind
didn't make crap then he would be out of work. How about asking the
client if they care if their building "resonates" with the rest of the
public. It's their money and their building. If you don't like it,
You're making some pretty darn broad assumptions. The *whole*
architectural industry (whatever that means)? "Widely recognized,
accepted?" "Culturally rooted?"
Who's the industry? All architects...except me, so the idea that the
whole industry is involved is shot.
And what "traditional" design is widely accepted? Colonial revivial?
Tudor? Victorian? Neo-Classical? Classical? Post-modern Classical?
Vernacular northern mid-west? Lest you also forget that much of
"traditional" was "avant-garde" at some point in history.
And "culturally rooted" in what? I have considerable ties to Finland.
They, as a people, are "culturally rooted", yet have embraced a modern
style. They have great "traditional" buildings, but also have even
better "modern" ones. So don't give me this crap that "traditional"
design is "culturally rooted."
Well... my experience says that most architectural professors are
stupid...they haven't designed anything that ever got built so they
really don't know what they're talking about.
But you must understand that "we" (that is us, the culture) has caused
this to happen. In order to get famous you have to get noticed. And,
just as in the art world nobody gets famous for being good at it
anymore, they only get famous for being outrageous. Elephant Dung is
"art" and makes the news. A great landscape is also art, but sold for
$5 at the county fair. Architects aren't too different. You want to be
noticed, so you design and build a giant ball of tinfoil and call it a
building. Gets you noticed. You get famous. Now everyone wants your
brand of tinfoil.
Answer why Brittany Spears ever made it big and you'll have the answer
to your question.
Sure...I think the law says something about accessible and safe. The
rest is up to the client. Besides, there are many who call FOG's
tinfoil buildings "recognizable, understandable and beautiful." I don't
know that I agree, but he get's 'em built.
Tell you what, you get licensed as an architect and then you go about
getting clients and insist to each client that you will only work for
them if you can design "recognizable, understandable and beautiful built
public environments (spelling corrected) through which to navigate
safely and live their lives." If the client can accept those
conditions, you're set.
So...you're the final arbiter of taste? Who made you the God of good
Architectural taste? Again, it's the client's building. If it's a
tax-payer financed building, should we each have a vote on it? What if
something you don't like gets voted in? You're whole theory kind of
gets blown apart, doesn't it? And don't get me started on the whole
tax-payer funded buildings...I'm already annoyed enough because of the
inability to reason found in the OP.
You will...assuming you're willing to 1) reason, 2) cast away emotional
feelings and 3) not get offended when somebody is straight with you.
Got that right. All they can do is talk until few understand what they're
talking about, and the rest don't care.
I had a guy who used to say a piece of architecture had to have "3 ideas".
Not 2, not 4, 3. I once did one of those quickie loosening-up exercises once
in his urban design studio, where I made an "unfinished city" on Ellis
Island (their site), which was always in flux, never completed. A densely
packed grid of skyscrapers, many of them under construction, some under
At the crit he says, "You have made a ruin.".
I said, "No. A ruin was completed, and then partly destroyed. This idea is
He said, "You can't do that."
I said, "I just did. It's a metaphor for the ephemerality of architecture in
the modern city."
He said, "There are no precedents for an 'unfinished city'. It must be a
I said, "No, it's *unfinished*. See the cranes atop many of the buildings?"
He said, "You can't do that........" etc.
It was rumored that he suffered a near nervous collapse at the existential
challenge of designing a 15 foot storefront.....
This guy later became head of Urban Design in TO, but has now thankfully
left town for someplace else that might take everything he says like it's
Great discussion, I miss this stuff in here, but I have no reason to
complain as I have added very little to the conversation in here lately. As
much as the stuff in school was full of itself, I did enjoy it, but then
again, I enjoyed philosophy very much. There has to be room for those
pushing the boundaries of tradition and good taste as there is for those
that would like as little change as possible to take place. Everyone in the
middle (which is most of us) can learn from both (and learn as in what to do
and not to do).
Maybe what's needed is the Architectural versionof the Pantone color guide
- i.e., "what does this color (or in this case, design) communicate?"
That's not something that people think about consciously, and many people
don't seem to think about at all. Which is why "fashion" is popular - if
you wear what this or that magazine *tells* you (the ubiquitous, not th
epersonal, you) to wear, then you don't have to strain your brain with
developing any sense of personal style (i.e. self expression - hard when
there is nto much oindividuality there to begin with...) or any sort of
It's sort of like only cooking by strictly following receipes - no matter
how bad they taste. Easier than learning the scents and flavors of the
many spices, and how they compliment one-another when used with various
Similarly, if a client reads in some self-proclaimed "style-setting" rag
that such-an-such a building style is "hot" (jeez I hate that term), then
said client can just run on autopilot and tell the architect "do something
So the architect gets to figure out how to adapt a predermined given to a
certain situation, as opposed to starting from scratch to create a piece of
working art. Which I'd think would be frustrating to architects but
that's only my guess...
Yup. Everything had to be thought up for the firt time at *some* point -
and I'm sure that some people grumbeled at some point about the idea of the
igloo, or the idea of using a disassemblable and portable wooden floor in a
yurt, just as I'm sure that some people, upon first visiting Notre Dame or
the Sistine Chapel (not to be confused with teh cysteine chapel ;) ),
though, "good grief, look at this newfangled piece of nonsense", or
somethink of similar sentiment.
After all, Santa Clause is now considered some sort of immutable Tradition,
when actualyl, he was pretty much invented by, *IIRC*, Thomas Nast in the
The Saltbox "style" started out as a way to cut the heat loss due to
prevaling cold northeast winds, but now, is merely a "traditional style".
Yup. Mostly,"traditional" merely means "DAR-vintage White Anglo Saxon
Protestant roots". My traditions were from Eastern Poland, and Slovakia.
Thus, irrelevant, or tacky, or inferior, or laughable, and so on. Slavic
wooden architecture (the most obvious example being the buildings at Kizhi
Island, but there are many beautiful examples I've found online).
OTOH, this remains one of my all-time favorites:
In terms of nationality, "Colonial" is "officially" my "tradition", but I
have an intense dislike for modern examples of so-called Colonial - all too
often, it's just another word for "cheapo cheesey construction", because it
doesn't take much to do it well enough to pass most people's acceptance
In terms of actual histpry of this continent, things likethe Iriquois long
house, the plain's indoans' teepees, and the SouthWest's Pueblos are more
In the end, it's unfortunately true that "one man's tradition is another
man's trash", and who is it who ends up defining which is tradition, and
which is trash...
IOW, as you (the personal you, as in 3D Peruna) IMO make an excellent
IM, they oughtn't be called "Arch Profs" - maybe "Arch Theory Profs", or
"Arch Philosophy Profs", but actual "Arch Profs" ought to be folks who've
actually *done* architecture.
But that's just ol' layman me...
Exactly. It's not a matter of talent, but of marketing.
Or 'elephant dung" ;) IOW, design something patterned after it. Woo-hoo!
Been trying to figure that one out myself. She isn't attractive and
doesn't have much of a voice. MArketing I guess. "Girls just wanna have
fun", and promoters just wanna get rich...
There too, who defines "beauty"? As has been asked through the ages: why
should someone else (such as our "traditionalist") have to right to have
his definition applauded and adopted, but mine boo'ed and rejected?
"beautifully" - it's an adjective (yeah, it *is* just me being anal ;) )
THe silly thing is that, in a way, the foundation of beauty is - I almost
hate to say it! - how the form foloows the function. OK, that argument can
get "way out there" so to speak, but IMO the essence or the intent is
pretty fundamental. A building is (or can be) Art, but first, it is a
building, IOW, it's raison d'etre is to fulfull a human function or set of
functions, as opposed to sculpture, whose function is basically to look
If the building functions poorly, then, well, not to put too fine a point
on it, basically crap. A Chambered Nautilus shell is a classic and ages-
old example of beauty, but its function is an inextricable part of that
beauty. That is true of all natural forms. If a building doesn't
function, it's really difficult (if even really possible) for it to be
beautiful, *redgardless* of what style decor is used. The style is like
the flesh - muscles and overlying skin - and the functional form is the
skeleton. A shark is beautiful, an arctic tern is beautiful, a horse is
beautiful, because they are perfect expressions of function, especially, of
the perfect integration/interaction of environment and creature.
One problem with buildings, IMO, is when people try *so* hardto be
"stylish", that they forget about the skeleton. Or, as the saying in the
house-flipping market goes, "Just put some lipstick on that pig, and
somebody will buy it".
Consider the bust of Nefertiti - definitely *not* a case of a "pig with
lipstick". Now consider many of the "fashion plates" that the media
screams at us are beautiful - yuck. Same is true in architecture. Beauty
starts from the very first mundane brick, the first quart of concrete that
gets poured. It's got nothing to do with whether teh skin is
"traditional" or "art deco" or whatever.
At least, that's my take on it.
Plus, let's not forget that, if his notion of "traditional" is Colonial,
then technically, by comparison, even Victorian is "Avant Garde". Or is
Vict. OK, but Art Deco "avant garde"?
Is this "too avant garde", even tho' it's 60 years old, if the info is
((Still one of my personal favorites, BTW.))
Large corporations hire "big name" architects because they have the
staff to pull off large projects.
Colonial revival homes have larger resale values.
Corporations do not intend to sell their properties, they intend it as
It is called making a statement and advertising
It has everything to do with $$$$$$
No, they have a responsibility to the client to deliver a product that
fits the client's needs and budget
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