“What stories from the generations that preceded you are the stories you hold close?” – LetsBlogOff Team
The real meat of this week’s LetsBlogOff is legacy, or an inheritance, a bequest, a heritage, an impression that you make on the world after you’re gone. What images immediately come to mind when you think of architectural legacy? The Parthenon, Acropolis, Pyramids of Giza, Sphynx, Empire State Building, Burj Khalifa, Taipei I & II, Monticello, the Capitol Building…I could go on and on and I’m sure most of you out there have more than a few rattling around in your head as well.
But what about the architects and designers that were behind these monumental works of architecture? What goes into the making of truly lasting and inspirational architecture especially in a modern world where styles, tastes, hell even national borders are changing almost daily? Can there still be a architectural legacy to leave behind or will all our works, no matter how grand, at some point face the wrecking ball, or worse – some other not-so-talented architect/designer screwing it up with an addition or remodel?
I don’t really know the answers to any of these questions, and for me, each question only leads to another question, and so on. But as I look around at the modern architectural profession and even just in my own built environment I see a LACK of legacy, a lack of inspiring work. There are exceptions, to be sure. The Gherkin, no matter your personal taste, is still an impressive piece of architecture and is even beautiful in it’s own way. But these exceptions to the general rule are becoming to few and far between. In 80 years when our generation has passed, what will our children and grandchildren look back on as our overwhelming contribution to the profession and to the artistic and architectural expression of our age? Will they say “you know they sure knew how to build some strip malls back in the day”, or will they say “look at the wonderful foundation they’ve left us to build from”. Currently I’m betting on the former, but I’m hoping for the latter.
We’re at an amazing point in human history where we have the technology and the ability to change the face of our world for many generations to come. Much like the Egyptians and their pyramids, or the Catholic church with her Cathedrals and buttresses, or the Bauhaus and the Internationalists with their Machine for Living. At no other time do I think that architects have the power and the responsibility to do something different, something better, something that will leave a legacy for the next generation to be proud of and build from, not cover up.
What will your legacy look like? Join LetsBlogOff and tell your story.
I have asked this question over and over again. In 100 years, what will the preservationists be fighting to preserve…Wal-Mart? I think not. It’s possible our perception is skewed since so much architecture has been destroyed over time by wars and attrition. Maybe what we’re seeing that remains is a romantic view of what we believe the past was like. I don’t know. All I know is Mr. Ryan’s and Mr. Maronda’s and Mr. Whomever’s houses will not be standing. If they are, do you think someone will be looking for an “old” Ryan house with charm for a DIY project? Will they be fighting to preserve Levittown? This is a tough argument to make because so many simply feel that what we are making now is what the culture wants, therefore, its right. Its hard to argue from there.
I would argue, and have many times, that “what the culture wants” is too often skewed by perception, and very limited perception at that. I think you actually touched on this in one of your recent posts where you were talking about style differences in your town versus a large metropolis like Chicago or LA or whatever. And to a degree your point was accurate. People make choices based on the availability that surrounds them. If their only choices are historical knock-offs, then that’s what they see as their palette. If on the other hand they are surrounded by Wright and Gehry and Hadid, then their perception is different. There is more available choice. I saw this in some focus group meetings I sat in on for Habitat for Humanity. What an eye opener.
The point is we, as the creators, the architects, the service professionals, need to offer something different, something better and educate our clients as to why it’s worth it to them to let us. An uphill battle for sure, but a necessary one to avoid walmart hitting the top of the endangered building list 80 years from now.
I think there is quite a bit going on in architecture and more to come. I think a lot of it is inside now with interior designers. I don’t do that kind of work, but I have blogged about it for four years now and find it fascinating. I think kitchens have done all kinds of wonderful things over the last century. And there’s more to come. Now we are seeing what I call Great Rooms: rooms with family room, living room, and kitchen all in the same room. With some of these new minimalist kitchens, it is possible to do that and really make it work well. I also see a lot with people using movable glass walls to bring the outdoors into their kitchen. That’s a concept that has all kinds of applications. In my own very limited way I have remodeled our home quite a bit and will do quite a bit more work over the next two years. Some of this work is looking at old things and concepts and doing something else altogether. So I do think strides are being made. They are also working with new materials in architecture these days, but you guys would know a lot more about that than I do. Eighty years from now I think people will have a lot to look back on and admire. Just sayin’!
This post has really made me think – thank you.
I agree with your assessment of things as they are today, but I have great hope for the near future of our profession. Buildings, being the individually designed and essentially hand-built products that they are, tend to be the last (and longest lasting) statement of a period. The world is changing at an alarming pace and Architecture doesn’t know how to respond yet.
I believe that when economic upheavals subside and the technology-driven democratization of society settles in – we will have the capital and the tools to design great things again.
I blog about (and not entirely tongue-in-cheek) about “The Next Golden Age of our Profession” – hold on. It’s coming!
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