Thursday, August 30, 2007
Architects Really Do Think Like This (if you can call it “thinking”)
Cott, whose firm’s work includes the critically and popularly praised Mass MoCA, a contemporary art museum housed in the shells of a cluster of old mill buildings in North Adams, Massachusetts, dislikes the idea of a neo-Georgian—or indeed, neo-anything—campus in Allston. “We’ve got to get past thinking of architecture in terms of style. We don’t think of cars as modern or not—they are modern, they’re of this time. Once I said to a client who wanted a Colonial design, ‘I’ll make a deal with you. If you’re wearing leather underwear, I’ll design you a more traditional-looking building. But if your underwear is made of some modern material, then I’d like to ask you to keep an open mind about the design.’”
1) Modernism is a style, and it is Modernist architects who always bring the discussion back to style, if a design is not in the Modernist style.
2) Cott is right that "We’ve got to get past thinking of architecture in terms of style." For example, instead of the style of Modernism, which is a limited and limiting language, why don't we think about the architecture of place, or architecture that makes places?
3) More than one-hundred years ago, architects spoke of "an architecture of our time" (by which they meant flat roofs, lots of glass and the expression of technology). But today's architects, in a very different time, want the same expression. How is that an expression of our time?
3) Flat roofs leak, and have for one-hundred years. Glass is a material that has high embodied energy in its production. Le Corbusier and others discovered that glass walls create light and energy problems: to compensate they created inventions like brise soleils that are unnecessary with less glass.
4) Technology is an inadequate expression of human aspirations and needs. A hundred years ago architects talked about "machines for living," but if cars shouldn't look like Classical temples (and they shouldn't), why should buildings look like machines?
5) My underwear, like most Americans', is cotton, which has been around
for at least two millennia. According to Cott's logic, therefore, he
should be designing traditional buildings.
BTW, I know very little about Cott, other than what I see on his website and what I read in Harvard magazine. Judging by his website, he's a better architect than philosopher, if his words here are typical. And they're typical of what 99 out of 100 architects will say.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Architects Really Do Think Like This (if you can call it “thinking”):
The same old story ... contemporary architecture certainly follows a style, and it is the most rigidly enforced of all styles in history. This putrid intellectual mixture of high-tech materials, morbid surfaces copied from crematoria, energy-inefficient glass expanses, and now jagged angles to generate nausea -- if anyone dares to build outside this deceptively loose but highly restrictive style, he/she is an apostate.
It used to be that for several decades, apostates were eliminated from practice. Nowadays, we are happy that all we get is an intellectual attack explaining (in often clever but specious ways) why our work is irrelevant.
Posted by: Nikos Salingaros at Aug 30, 2007 12:06:01 PM
Buildings are NOT cars, after all. They are ancient forms which continue to have utility, ancient and modern at once. There is often little reason to depart from long established precedents, except to satisfy the vanity of the architect. The appearance of buildings, therefore, is most certainly a style, whether traditional or contemporary.
For that matter, cars are created in particular styles as well, and the few "neo" or "retro" designs of the last few years have proven quite popular - the new mustang, beetle, challenger, etc. I wonder how Cott feels about that.
Posted by: Gizler at Sep 4, 2007 10:47:46 AM