(photo by Paul Clemence, via)
“One of the hallmarks of American polity is the increasing pervasiveness of so-called â€œpublic-private partnershipsâ€ and with them the idea that public space must pay for itself directly, that a park must have a cafÃ© or a condo in it to cover its costs. At Ground Zero, the melding of memory and profit will, in fact, be the â€œthemeâ€ of the site. As the disproportion between the gigantic exclusionary skyscrapers, the hemmed-in memorial, the pay-to-enter museum, and the upmarket shops in Towers 2, 3, and 4 makes legible, it will be a record of much that is wrong, ungenerous, and crass about American culture today. And I keep wondering when the pious rage that thwarted the proposed Islamic center nearby will turn on the cadre of halal kebab carts that dot the periphery of the site.”
Michael Sorkin in the September 2011 issue of Architectural Record. Punches aren’t held, as one can expect from Sorkin – and it’s much appreciated, in the midst of the love-fest that’s going on due to the 10th anniversary. While we take the time to reflect on the meaning of 9/11 ten years later – what has changed, what (maybe unfortunately) hasn’t – I think it’s important to recognize that opportunities were missed when it comes to the redevelopment of the site. Unlike Sorkin I never hoped for the site to be left empty – that seems both unrealistic and defeatist, not to mention anti-urban – but I had hoped for something to be excited about. I understand that this is the real world, not a fantasy, and developers have money in mind before much else – as they should, I suppose – but these are special circumstances, and we aren’t receiving particularly ‘special’ buildings in return. If these towers were placed on another site, in another city (which they easily could be), we wouldn’t be discussing them as great additions to global skyscraper design. Might not be discussing them at all.
While our monuments may justify the response of awe, generally architecture is something to be occupied and adopted, not to be held at a distance and puzzled over. The modern buildings to be admired are those where the physical, material and spatial potential of architecture has been coherently organised, leaving us with a quiet conviction that the way the building looks, and the experience of being within it, not only reassures us through its physical authenticity, but inspires us to consider what our built world could be.
The process of architectural composition must consider what society expects architecture to look like and be like. While it is not our role simply to fulfill these expectations, they must influence our approach. Architecture must engage innovation both at a formal and technical level. While we must search for new possibilities and ideas we must be suspicious of innovation for its own sake. This does not preclude the radical exceptions that we need as provocation.
We must consider innovation within the self-imposed limits of understanding and meaning. The generation of form that has no explanation beyond its own desire to be innovative must be measured against the imagined limits of precedents.
The pursuit of spectacular form erodes the idea of normality. We desire of our environment, buildings and spaces that aspire to their own sense of nature; spaces and buildings that both respond and describe the individual’s position within a civic society.
The rejection of such ambitions based on the fact that social patterns, political authority and commercial structures have changed and that our new situation need new forms and new types of spaces, succeeds in giving license to the erosion of urban structure and uncontrolled urban sprawl.
~ David Chipperfield, Form Matters
What you actually do when you move out of a city is move into a car.
LEED should give performance requirements and let the architect solve the problem. The point system doesn’t scale. A bike rack and air conditioning get you the same point. I’d much rather see BTU and CO2 requirements and let the professional community solve the problem. If you give proscriptive requirements, it stagnates new development and research. It’s like taking a blue book test. You don’t need to know the subject. Because architects deal in creative problem solving, some of that will be curtailed by proscriptive systems.
I also think the LEED point system is overladen in the construction phase versus lifetime energy consumption and secondary effects.
~ Thom Mayne, from “Thom Mayne on Green Design,” an interview with Arch Record
To be fair, LEED has changed since this statement by Mayne – and is still evolving right now. That said, the point system is definitely a strange one. Check out the rest of the interview [possibly from 2008, but whatever] for more on what Mayne thinks about ‘green’ design and the future of sustainable architecture.
You have to give this much to the Luftwaffe – when it knocked down our buildings it did not replace them with anything more offensive than rubble. We did that.
~ Charles, Prince of Wales [AKA ‘Prince Chuckles’ to ninjas]
I’m afraid that people don’t want the future to happen. In order for people to want this, each person has to have goals in their life, to feel proud. Work is one of the ways of achieving this. Unemployment is dangerous because then people don’t use their resources. Each individual has to be able to use their abilities.
~ Tadao Ando, in interview with designboom [via]
“You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces; that is construction. Ingenuity is at work.
But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good, I am happy and I say, “This is beautiful.” That is Architecture. Art enters in.
My house is practical. I thank you, as I might thank Railway engineers, or the Telephone service. You have not touched my heart.
But suppose that walls rise toward heaven in such a way that I am moved. I perceive your intentions. Your mood has been gentle, brutal, charming or noble. The stones you have erected tell me so. You fix me to the place and my eyes regard it. They behold something which expresses a thought. A thought which reveals itself without word or sound, but solely by means of shapes which stand in a certain relationship to one another. These shapes are such that they are clearly revealed in light. The relationships between them have not necessarily any reference to what is practical or descriptive. They are a mathematical creation of your mind. They are the language of Architecture. By the use of inert materials and starting from conditions more or less utilitarian, you have established certain relationships which have aroused my emotions. This is Architecture.”
~ Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
[image: BBC Scotland interior, David Chipperfield Architects]
“Simple. Britain gets the architecture it deserves. We don’t value architecture, we don’t take it seriously, we don’t want to pay for it and the architect isn’t trusted… We are a country that values money and individualism. Architecture becomes glorified property development, not valued culture. Ten storeys? Try for 20. Squeeze in more bedrooms. That’s British architecture.”
~ David Chipperfield, in response to the Times of London asking “So why was the ‘building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year’ not British? For the second year running, too. Four of the six buildings on the Stirling shortlist were foreign, while the two that actually were on British soil were really rather tokenistic in comparison.”
Sushi is a good metaphor for my architecture. The importance in sushi is to choose the best material from the place, in season.
If the journey of the ingredients is too long, the taste of the sushi is compromised. That is a problem that can’t be solved by modern technology, and that programme of using local material in season is the secret of good taste, and the secret of my style.
There are two important things to make sushi. One is the material and the other is the skill… For sushi, both the power of the material and skill is important and their balance is very important.
I believe that this balance is what people want. People and society are seeking the thing like sushi for the architecture and their city. A variety of people are interested in Japanese architecture and traditions and this is parallel to why sushi is popular in Western country.
~ Kengo Kuma, first quote from 2008, second from 2009
“Each material has its specific characteristics which we must understand if we want to use it… This is no less true of steel and concrete [than of wood, brick, and stone]. We must remember that everything depends on how we use a material, not on the material itself… New Materials are not necessarily superior. Each material is only what we make of it… We must be as familiar with the functions of our buildings as with our materials. We must learn what a building can be, what it should be, and also what it must not be… And just as we acquaint ourselves with materials, just as we must understand functions, so we must become familiar with the psychological and spiritual factors of our day. No cultural activity is possible otherwise; for we are dependent on the spirit of our time.”
~ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, from inaugural address at Illinois Institute of Technology, 1938