Posted by steveA on February 06, 2003 at 11:09:57:
In Reply to: ArchWeek - What is the Culture of Building? posted by Kevin Matthews on February 05, 2003 at 00:42:33:
This is an extremely important question. The building culture definitely directs the architect's activity (if not defines it). This is what we struggle with everyday, and is , I think the essence of Per's struggle. How moveable is this gargantuan and nebulous entity? How hard should one push against it? Where are the handholds to actually push from? 'Sounds like another day at the office! :-)
One can accept the boundaries of the culture and work within it, and be satisfied with small victories, or one can try to change the culture, and probably be dissatisfied but keep striving for the "big idea". We try to do a little of both.
The Guggenheim is a great example in this regard. Per is absolutely correct in that saying that it is just decoration at the tip of a very large pyramid of convention. What makes it a bit more significant than most if not all other work from the last 70 years is
its means of conception. The use of digital media makes this building possible. Now,it is not the first building of its kind, and digital media have been around a long time now, but the building is a kind of zenith of this genre (perhaps it is the beginning of the end of it as well?). It is the most mature example, and certainly among the most beautiful.
But even so, compared to the rest of the bulk of the building culture, it is a small part. Even the construction methods, which the building challenges to a point of absurdity, is conventional. It and the genre it represents begs for a breakthrough in building production, as Per has pointed out. The breakthrough will happen when this sort of building becomes a design standard (can our cities absorb these kinds of buildings? Or are they only effective as icons?). I don't think that will happen. Our primal need for order will get in the way.
One area of the building culture that may be changing, again thanks to computers,is in purchasing. On line auctions have proven to be a viable and efficient way to purchase building componants, and can potentially save Owners time and money. This won't put any more money in the pockets of the architects, but may allow the owners and developers to increase the volume of their businesses.
The culture of building is difficult to influence from the position of architect. But "culture" is almost by definition imoveable; the product of an accumilation of countless events (and by extention beliefs) that develop over time. Breakthroughs occur when great ideas align with our needs.
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