keep your dogma off my lawn

My buddy Lee, with Lee Calisti Architecture + Design, has a recent post where he poses the question “where are we, where am I”, speaking about the current state of architecture and geo-political economics, etc. And he makes the point that architecture today is in flux, changing, at breakneck speeds. Technology is only increasing each and every day making it more and more difficult to keep up with the latest tools, let alone keep up with the latest design trends in a world wide community.

What I like most about this post was the video at the end. An interview by Archdaily with Peter Eisenman in which they ask “what do you think about American architecture today?” A bold question to ask one of our generations starchitects.

Peter responds by first talking about what he calls a “pivotal time” in architecture (this time being the late 60s and early 70s) where there was an architectural identity in which “architecture changed from being practical and pragmatic to being theoretical and cultural”, and goes on to say that architecture today is basically without an “ism” (i.e. Post-Modernism, Deconstructivism, Neoclassicism). And today’s architects, being without this identity, a founding ism, or dogma are sort of floundering around looking for that sense of architectural self.

I tend to agree with Peter that architecture today lacks a particular identity. But I also think the lack of a singular identity has allowed architects to get back to a root cause of architecture that is project specific. For so many years our architecture had a style, a dogma, a set of aesthetic principles that were followed based on nothing more than visual appeal or some other guiding principle rather than on some specific expression of the site, surroundings or even the function. Architecture, today, I think, has reclaimed that sense of place even in a world of expanding modular capabilities where buildings are no longer constructed on site, but rather shipped and lifted into place.

What I’ve seen is the design process shift to a more sensitive and site specific approach to design that maybe was lacking in years past. What about you? Do you think Peter is right when he says young architects today should “get ready for a time when there is a possibility of making architecture again?” Or are we already there?

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7 thoughts on “keep your dogma off my lawn

  1. I agree with Eisenman’s views as well as Jeremy’s. It’s an age of unbounded possibilities for dismantling age long architectural boundaries by individualistic expressionism of the Foster genre on one hand and the tendency to venture into ‘nihilism’ yet the demands of 21st century exceeds what we have had in the past both in terms of intelligible and sustainable building solutions and-like you rightly noted-with tints of cultural sensitivity.

    • Great comments! Thank you. I also do lean towards agreement with Eisenman, but only to the extent that I believe architecture is currently without a great stylistic compass. And I think that is a good thing. I like your description of “individual expressionism”. I think that has a great deal of merit where I describe an architecture that has returned it’s focus on the local site, surroundings and the end user. There has been a return to craft and artistry in architecture that is beautiful despite not having a unified theme.
      Thank again. Cheers.

  2. so maybe as you said people want a more crafted look to their space, and architecture is stalling in a lot of areas. but to see the future, you have to be there, right now, since everything is in flux, and I do mean everything, the need for inspiration thru music, architecture, color, etc. will inspire a new generation, like my grandson in USF who is studying architecture.

    • Lynne, thanks for your comments. I actually don’t think that architecture has stalled. Eisenman seems to think so, but I disagree. In Eisenman’s view, it seems, he’s waiting for another “ism” or another “movement” to come to architecture to get it started again. In my view architecture is beyond the “movement” or the “ism”. We’ve reached a point in architecture where, like I said, we’ve become more project-centric. Our inspirations are still drawn from all things in life, as you mentioned music, color, etc, but we are not bound by rigid memes like the Prairie Style or Post Modernism or Deconstructivism or the International Style. Architecture, in my opinion, today simply “is”.

      • I tend to agree with Jeremiah. It seems we’ve finally agreed or accepted that architecture can be what it is without following the current trends or “isms”. We don’t need that as a crutch anymore. If you go back and listen to the entire interview on ArchDaily, you’ll find a more nihilistic air to his views on architecture; somewhat arrogant. He limits his definition of architecture very narrowly and calls the remainder “necessary” but not architecture. Maybe that’s what I’m waiting for in his words, a project to come by that’s ‘Architecture.’

      • Oh come on, there are plenty of projects he defines as “architecture”. Didn’t you see all of them in his office? 😛

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