Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Good architecture really isn't so complicated"

"At Home: Good architecture really isn't so complicated"
Contra Costa Times (December 25, 2009)

"Six of us sat around a conference table, eyes locked on a projection screen. We'd been summoned by the Denver chapter of the American Institute of Architects to look through contest entries to select homes worthy of this year's Architects' Choice Award.

"As far as I was concerned, the AIA might as well have called and asked, 'Would you like to spend a day eating chocolate truffles and sipping champagne?'..."

That gives you a good idea of the tone of this article. A bit further on, the author describes how the judges discussed the houses:

"...The two architects spoke with academic authority on the merits or non-merits of a project's lines, proportions, site appropriateness and choice of materials.

"The editors keenly observed the project's photogenic appeal and how well the interiors and exteriors integrated.

"The housing director made inquiries about costs and sustainability.

"Me, I looked at every home and asked how would I like to live there...."

I like that approach.

Don't get me wrong: I also like to read dreadfully earnest articles about the inscrutable suchness of sustainability, or why making a bunch of cabins look like ready-for-razing metal storage sheds is a good idea. (July 20, 2009)

But it's nice to see someone who is
  1. Interested in architecture
  2. Remembers that buildings are mostly supposed to provide shelter for
    • People and their
      • Activities
      • Interests
The article isn't so much about the entries in the contest, or who the winners were: it's about architecture and how it should be approached.

Another excerpt, from near the end:

"...I realized that although architecture is often cloaked in esoteric mystery, good architecture is clear and accessible: The better architecture is, the more regular people - like me - get it....

"...For any residential architects out there, or those of you working with one, here are design qualities that get rewarded, and some that don't:
  • "Humble is good. This year, ostentation universally got a thumbs down.
  • "Ego check. The more a project was about the client and not about the architect, the better it fared.
  • "True to its roots. Location matters in architecture, too. How well a project fit the site counted. A lot. Homes should not look as if they came from a faraway land...."
That last point is one of the reasons I am still interested in the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright - there's good sense in designing homes that fit into the landscape.

If there were only one point I could highlight from the article, it would be this:

"...although architecture is often cloaked in esoteric mystery, good architecture is clear and accessible: The better architecture is, the more regular people - like me - get it...."

The idea that creative work must be incomprehensible to "the masses" - and, preferably, unpopular, is nothing new. Here's a quote from about a century ago:

"By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece." -
"On Detective Novels," Generally Speaking, G. K. Chesterton, from "Quotations of G. K. Chesterton", chesterton.org.

Sort-of-related posts:

2 comments:

Metal Storage Sheds said...

it's not complicated if it's in your heart to design

Brian Gill said...

Sorry about the excessive delay - the Lemming finally realized that comments were piling up.

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