**eastward movement is included

20080623

ARCHITECTURE.

My post-graduate contribution by way of architecture and design thus far has been modest, ethical, well-intentioned and relatively good. it has been on a variety of scales and involved an array of different clients, architects and developers. lastly, it has all occurred within this country. that being said, the notion of having an impact on an international scale seems implausible, discomforting, and even a little absurd.

daniel libeskind recently declared "i don't work for totalitarian regimes," suggesting his absence from an unstoppable architectural movement might actually result in a quantifiable social impact. deliberately contrarian, he managed to galvanize hundreds of architects and bloggers who unapologetically rationalize and embrace international relationships between nations and starchiects. such is an example of what is undeniably consistent in the profession; delusion and ego.

clearly the aforementioned behavioral 'flaws' aren't exclusive to architects. in fact, i know full well most relevant architecture is the product of these very ideas. i excuse them because i understand them {sort of}, and under certain circumstances, i actually admire them.

this recent new york times recent article here was my inspiration to "publicly" discuss this topic. by interviewing the biggest {but not necessarily the best or the most influential, i might add} architects in the world, we can begin to understand each individuals' rationalization for accepting or rejecting certain commissions around the world, based upon the respective country's devotion or posturing towards the preservation of human rights. architects like libeskind have convinced themselves that their buildings are so metaphorically powerful, entire nations will take notice, marvel, and then discover new paths of personal self-discovery and self-improvement. i see this as both brilliant and comically presumptuous.

does the average chinese citizen care if libeskind, steven holl, tadao ando, etc. builds in china? probably not. do the chinese like "the bird's nest" any more or less because the design came from a swiss firm? i doubt it. and more importantly, will people adjust their behavior because of what these architects build and don't build? i will cynically suggest the answer is "no."

clearly, this article troubles me. anecdotes, interviews and quotations from various "big" architects imply the most accurate way to judge the "cultural success" of a design is to reference the work of these huge firms. in all fairness, i realize this is just one small article, and the times isn't an architectural publication, but broadening the discussion seems necessary. reading this article, i was continually hoping for the discussion to change directions - to descend further in scale.

amazingly, a link away from this article takes me to a separate article discussing the opportunities for sustainable home-building, one home at a time. what an appropriate transition. essentially, both articles are about architecture as a vehicle for positive influence, and the possibility that certain architectural gestures can both represent and perpetuate responsible behavioral changes. at this moment, i am convinced that scale is the most critical aspect of societal change.

perhaps i am wrong; grand architectural expressions have and always will be the greatest way to bring about social impact and inspire the masses. on the other hand, i find comfort in the possibility the opposite may be true. in other words, intimate, direct relationships with clients, contractors and the design itself are the true path to influence and sincere personal satisfaction. a "smaller" path certainly will not save any lives, make grand political statements or create new jobs. however self-defeating it may sound, for now i am comfortable avoiding delusions of grandeur.

1 comment:

tessa said...

To say that I’ve felt a stirring of emotion in Libeskind’s buildings would be a lie. Though in some regard, I feel it is my duty to respect these plays of grandeur and recognize their contributions. Note: who am I to tell Mr. Libeskind anything about architecture?

As architects, I think it is our duty to make a contribution rather than a statement, regardless of its absolute size. I see it as a conflict of interest in our heady self – between the artist: who is creating for image, and the builder: who is creating for need.

To apply any sort of logic or quantifiable means to the outcome, which is relative, is unfair. So, then, what do we use to 'measure' a building? Like you say, if we succeed in personal satisfaction and the client is happy, is this the only thing that matters?

It often seems so.

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I take myself too seriously most of the time and I am trying to do that less. I remind some people of Woody Allen. I occationally indulge in the weekend camping trip. I adamantly support the Kansas City Royals baseball club. My identity is wrapped up in a few simple things, most of which are continuously displayed on this here blog.

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