Famous Architects - "gods" or cultural icons?

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Famous Architects - "gods" or cultural icons?

Postby usarender » Sun Aug 26, 2007 4:00 pm

What do you think, that if an architect is famous, he is frequently regarded as a type of "god" so to speak, an ultimate authority, a revealer of truth, a spokesman for modern thought, a reflection of the advancement of man, a superior being of higher intelligence, a master of the arts, a creator of divine inspiration, a source of awe and grander, a figure to look upon in amazement ?

Or simply put, can be frequently regarded as -->>

"Cultural icons of global disharmony of thought that favor local predetermined ways of thinking, personal preferences, local technological, cultural, architectural bias ?"

Or are they simply --->>>

"Highly respected members of society that have achieved a degree of success due to their excellence of design, advanced intellect, ability in convincing clients, and power of influence to inform and persuade?"

Your opinion is appreciated.
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Postby Richard Haut » Sun Aug 26, 2007 5:29 pm

The notion of fame is indeed an interesting one, but your option 1 definitiion ("Cultural icons of global disharmony of thought that favor local predetermined ways of thinking, personal preferences, local technological, cultural, architectural bias ?") is inadequate for the answering of your question.

As can be seen even on some threads in this forum there are those whose "ambition" is to be "famous".

Firstly I presume that you are talking of the fame of living architects.

Secondly, the question is perhaps clearer when one remembers that one of the earlier words used to indicate the leaders or most prominent was "influential".

Thirdly, fashions change and even the "famous" can rapidly be forgotten.

Fourthly, there have always been the trend-setters who may be very limited in their influence over time, but receive great attention during a short period. That is totally different from those whose work, and often ideas, stand the test of time.

Architects can become known for many reasons - in some cases it can be a single building, or even an idea - in others it is for the overall range of their work.

After all, for a very large number of architects in Britain one of the most "famous" - and one of the most missed - architects of recent times is Cedric Price.
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Great response !

Postby usarender » Mon Aug 27, 2007 6:46 pm

I appreciate the response Richard. This does a great job of explaining.

It will be interesting to see if other's have similar ideas as these or wish to express their own viewpoints on this subject in similar or varying terms.

Regards,

Mr. Nelson
================================================
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3 Categories of Architects ?

Postby usarender » Mon Aug 27, 2007 6:52 pm

Do you think that perhaps one can find examples that fit into each category, or different categories, but to such an extent that the categories can be generalized into the 3 forms as expressed ?

1. Those who are as gods or cultural icons. They have their own style, are not dictated by client decisions, as they in essence do as they wish.

2. Those who simply follow client needs and program requirements and produce notable buildings, but are not regarded as gods. They know how to give the clients what they want in terms of form and fashion. In essence, they do not have complete freedom to do as they wish, but they also know how to give the client what he wants.

3. Those who by much hard work and great works, together with an ability to convince clients, are able to achieve great contracts. They do not achieve fame from following fashion, but from their own achieved style. They do not simply follow current trend of style, nor do they simply always produce a design just to please a local client. They are neither gods nor devils, they simply become famous by producing great architecture without feeling they have to be regarded as gods.


Or, would it be a re-definition of the categories above, with adjustments.

I believe many famous architects can fit into these categories, or a more closely elaborated definition of the same, with elements from one item mixed with elements from the other, but in essence, from a same set of reference points. What does the community think ?

What would these reference points be ?

Can you think architects in your country you regard as the most famous today ? In your opinion, which would those be ?

How do your view them ?

Should we speak of current architects, or the most influential of all times for particular regional areas ?

By influential, do we need to qualify further ? Perhaps the degree of influence could vary, according to the point of view.

But in essence, can we find some points in harmony with this line of thinking ?

Frequently famous architects are given huge contracts to do many times as they wish, simply because they are famous. This does reflect a sense that they are regarded almost as divine, of divine inspiration, so to speak. So they are in a sense, forms of gods, under this perspective.
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Postby lenax » Thu Aug 30, 2007 4:13 pm

I think all of the definitions that you stated are on point except that it doesn't define from which standpoint the definition comes from.

I can see an architecture student looking at a famous architect as a "God" as he/she seem so unattainable and masterful in the context of their own abilities.

From a non architect who knows nothing of the field "famous architect" is just another guy talking about something he doesn't understand. He is just some strange intellectual guy.

The key I guess is relativity.

see also this blog as it pertains to this discussion.

http://famousarchitect.blogspot.com/
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Relativity?

Postby usarender » Fri Aug 31, 2007 2:43 pm

Relativity enters into all equations of life. We are seeking greater behavior patterns, as expressed by a social view, class view or society view of famous architects, in the exercise of their profession. So obviously, the question applies only to those are familiar with the works of the architects, and not to people who know nothing of the architects or their works.

So it would be nice to see what people have to say in relation to the greater issues as stated above.
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Postby P.C. » Fri Aug 31, 2007 4:31 pm

Fame are in the eye of the audience.
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A Need for Greater Understanding

Postby usarender » Fri Aug 31, 2007 7:55 pm

When we say "fame is in the eye of the audience", we are bringing relativity again in the equation.

We are not speaking of relativity, but of a general consensus, as a society, that particular architects are famous.

We would all agree in the Western World that Richard Neutra, Frank Gehry, Richard Stern or Alvar Aalto either were, have been or are famous architects.

The reference here is not to what we perceive as "famous", but the greater issues as stated above, in regards to architects being considered "gods" or "cultural icons".

We can see this clearly in the works of many great architects even back to ancient times, when such were give the keys of the kingdom so to speak, and represented the aspirations and desires of the gods in ancient times. In this context, they were truly earthly representations of the divine, symbols of the "infinite authority" of the kings and kingdoms they represented. It is written all over history and can be seen on every page, from Egyptian Pyramids, to Ancient palaces, to the Roman Collaseum, to the Temples of Greece. The architect has ever been in the quest for the perfect, the eternal representation of man in a perfect human form of art.
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Postby Patrick-Steven » Sat Mar 15, 2008 1:55 am

How do your view them ?

Should we speak of current architects, or the most influential of all times for particular regional areas ?

By influential, do we need to qualify further ? Perhaps the degree of influence could vary, according to the point of view.
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Postby mx2 » Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:01 pm

Highly respected members of society that have achieved a degree of success due to their excellence of design, advanced intellect, ability in convincing clients, and power of influence to inform and persuade?


Fame and infamy are not necessarily the result of intellect or all of the above...but it is a result of the values of a given society and how they react to an architect and his/her work. But we know that values are not always virtuous. And that's where I think the answere resides...in the differentiation between Virtues and Values. Virtues are the traits valued as "good". Values (personal and social) are subjective, being the degree of importance that society places on said thing(s). It's very fluid and prone to trendiness, chic, a la mode, couture, etc...

The contrast of an architect to either GODS or ICONS seems disparate in nature...meaning, the notion of GODS is ethereal and transcending, more than a simple Ubermensch, but rather a SuperHuman in possession of powers that no human possesses. The notion of ICONS however correlates to what I mention about values, essentially stating that these famous architects are the image of a certain set of values that collectively are desirable. I find it, again, very fleeting.

I assume however that what you truly are seeking is the direct correlation between Infamy and Architects. Who deserves it perhaps? Lol...again, subjective. How did each one achieve fame? With a bit of luck I would argue...

Who one person may consider a Demigod or Icon in Architecture may not be the same for someone else, but the famous remain as famous as the number of people who recognize them or their work. I think these issues are not one and the same although the fact that some are famous is a pre-requisite to becoming a well-known, established and respected Architect; and one that may be regarded by some, or many, as somehow deserving of the title of Representative of the Best of Architecture.

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Postby TJCaine » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:42 pm

Fame and infamy are not necessarily the result of intellect or all of the above...but it is a result of the values of a given society and how they react to an architect and his/her work.


I would have to agree with mx2 that fame and talent are not necessarily synonymous. Now more than ever we live in a society were fame is the product of publication and exposure on vast media channels that did not even exist decades ago. The speed of our culture (especially America's) makes our appreciation of the creative and artistic change with ever-increasing frequency. Could fame simply be a result of attracting the attention and subjective praise of a few key editors and publishers? Architectural Record, Wallpaper, Detail, Architectural Newspaper--every publication and display of work instantly grants more face time to a project than most projects will ever see in their existence.

I have to question whether society places importance on architectural creations and thus dictates which designers rise to the top or if it is merely the upper echelon of architects and architectural critics that feed a somewhat incestuous and private club within the artistic world. I'd argue that more than ever in history non-architects are disjointed from architectural discourse.

I think that these successful architects fall into the latter of your two original definitions of your first post. The true masters of architecture are those whose work we never stop talking about--whose products are receiving praise when the architects are no longer around to receive it. For now, some are just celebrities. I think we can all individually pull out celebrities that are famous but are not masters of their field.
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Postby mx2 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:16 pm

That's a good point...Celebrities...ie., makes me chuckle wondering who is the Paris Hilton of Architecture? 8)

That said, I wanted to add to the discussion something I've been wondering about since college...does the vast number of Architects around the world have a diluting effect? I mean, the famous Architects of the many preceding decades were competing against far fewer numbers and I would even think many of those architects were content building run of the mill projects. The avant-garde paved the way for the Bauhaus school of thought which seems to have somehow given license to every single graduate (whether they go on to practice or not) the single idea that every project must be approached with a sense of individuality...such that there is a great disconnect from one another.

Put the two together and I see an odd phenomenon...celebrities that are not respected today for they do not represent that what we should be striving towards.

Hmmm....

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Postby TJCaine » Mon Mar 31, 2008 2:39 pm

Another angle on the question is does the vast number of "individualities," as you put it, have a diluting effect? There are those that categorize our era of architecture now as one of "non-style," having retiring stylistic modes of architecture in general. Historically, styles were more far reaching with a large percentage of practicing architects striving in a strangely common goal to perfect a given mode of design in a given time.

In a sense, it may not have mattered how many architects there were, because they were all building on each others' work. Some rose as the most appreciated, some merely contributed to the fabric.

My first reaction would be that while acknowledging a global stylistic reality to architecture brings limitations to how buildings respond to individual needs of site, program, use, etc., there something endearing about the thought that architecture as a whole operates as a profession-wide goal of unified progress. I think historically it was more about this than a countless number of creative professionals all climbing over one another to find their lucky break to slip into the limelight.
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Postby mx2 » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:47 pm

I never thought of it that way before...as evident as it sounds now: the "lemmings into the sea" trends can be argued as a contributor to the fall of "styles", ending with the rebellion against the ultimate rebellion of Modernism. Had each individual architect strove NOT to imrpove on rhetoric but rather remain solely responsive to the program and site then perhaps we can argue for today's non-style as the end-all. Have we reached Architectrural Nirvana? Ha!....

...Utopia is always undermined by the individual. Within chaos there is order. Be like water and flow through the crevices and around the bolders in the way...

I don't get it. It just seems all too contradictory. And all the time. Well,...back to the drawing board. Time to start with the boundary survey and work my way to the restroom layout...maybe this time I will create something new....create, create...hmmm,...there in lies the rub. Do we truly create? Now I've gone off on several tangents...my apologies.

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Postby Guest » Tue Apr 01, 2008 12:16 pm

Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it.
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