Daily Prompt: Art Appreciation

Do you need to agree with an artist’s lifestyle or politics to appreciate their art? To spend money on it?

In college I had a professor who told us constantly that we were not allowed to “hate” architecture. We could discuss any design faults, including and not limited to color, views, form, construction details, lack of construction details, human scale, etc. We were even encouraged to find these things to discuss and even took a couple of walks around Savannah during class to view and discuss some of the larger buildings.

Drayton Tower, Savannah, GA

Drayton Tower, Savannah, GA

One in particular was Drayton Tower. It’s awful. I never liked that building. Still don’t. It’s a typical mid-century modern tower with some retail on the ground floor, a few offices, I think, and apartments the rest of the way up. It’s a rectangular tower that faces the cardinal directions with one long facade facing due south. It’s all glass. O_o

To describe this as a fundamental design flaw would just be a waste of time. Over the years they tried to combat the fact that they essentially built a huge glass oven by installing tinting on the windows. It’s green. And has faded to different colors over the years and been replaced, etc. So you get a patchwork effect. Then the tinting didn’t really work as well as hoped so they installed large blinds and then beefed up the hvac system…typical stuff. It’s still Savannah….in summer….in a big glass oven.

BUT all of that to say, it’s significance as a piece of architecture for the city is incredibly important. It was the first multi-story building of modern design in a very historic city. It was also the first high rise to be built in the city with central heat and air thank God. And, for better or worse, it has become a part of the urban fabric of the city. It’s iconic for all its failures and successes and should be appreciated for both.

Architecture, like Art, is so often in the eye of the beholder. Some architecture, like art, speaks to us in a profound and visceral way while others we pass by every day without a second thought. Architecture, like Art, is not necessarily good or bad. It’s personal. It’s up to you the beholder, the user, the client, to determine how architecture makes you feel and respond accordingly. Just don’t say you hate it. That’s a useless emotional response that has no hope of creating a conversation.

2 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Art Appreciation

  1. I’m sorry, but I hate the type of architecture this building represents. A lot of them went up in Bethesda, MD where I grew up in the mid-sixties, and from an engineer’s perspective they aren’t good. Too much inefficiency in the HVAC systems. Worse, most of them don’t bring in any fresh air into the HVAC systems, and you can’t open the windows. I worked in one of these type of buildings a number of years ago, and I had serious issues with my mold allergy because of the lack of fresh air. They are hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Over their life the window seals fail, and they leak.

    From an aesthetic point of view, as an engineer I love geometry. However, a box like this does not provide any kind of interest in its geometry. It says to me “you wanted a building, there, you have one”. There is nothing to break up the monotony, no interesting curves or triangles.

    So, I have to disagree with the premise that Architecture is in the eye of the beholder. The type of design of this building lacks functionality, and to me it shows the owner didn’t care about the aesthetics, he just wanted a building that he could sell to the next sucker.


    • All of those points are right about in line with the critique we made at the time, and it all still hold true today since none of those issues have been addressed.
      I still maintain that “hating” a building is just the wrong attitude to have. Pointing out the failures and where things need to be improved (which isn’t hard with this building) is the right way to go. Even a building that functions poorly can be beautiful and appreciated.
      Thanks, George! I always appreciate an engineers point of view, especially on design functionality!

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