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AR Reader's call for the practical application of theory

Bruce Buckland argues that a greater emphasis on the application of theory in The Big Rethink is required

While The Big Rethink essays and Future Frontiers lectures at the RCA are undoubtedly helping to push forward architectural theory, a greater emphasis on practical application of the theory is required.

The key to achieving large scale change in architectural practice must surely lie in incentivising clients to adopt designs based on the AQAL diagram’s ‘four-quadrant thinking’, by demonstrating the functional, aesthetic, moral, and most importantly financial benefits of doing so. This is more difficult than it sounds as generally it is financially disadvantageous to design things better. If architects can be the promoters of four-quadrant thinking as well as being adopters, then it will go a long way to bringing such core changes in attitude to the public.

A digital version of Peter Buchanan’s 4th The Big Rethink essay in last month’s issue

The public view is a point worth emphasising − no matter how enlightened the architectural world is to the ways of four-quadrant thinking or its equivalents, the public is the group whose perspective on how to live must be altered if a significant social and cultural shift is to be achieved.

I include in the definition of ‘public’ the property developers, who are the largest single contact between architectural influence and the public conscience, even if neither side realises it. It seems to me though that the importance of property developers has been drastically overlooked by the architectural profession. Mass produced houses have just as much, if not more architectural influence on people as starchitecture does. Without much greater influence of the architectural world on mass market property development, the ideals and principles put forward by Peter Buchanan and other forward thinkers will never enter the public mind.

At the Future Frontiers lecture Charles Jencks and Patrik Schumacher exchanged heated views about the necessity and direction of style. Style should be a visual representation of the values and principles of any given building − a view Mr Schumacher also seems to hold. He is correct in searching for a new style that is relevant in the 21st century; however, I do not believe that Parametricism is quite the best suited style to do this. What the new style should certainly do is instil and encourage the values of four-quadrant thinking. As the face of architecture, style is a vital player in instigating social change, so developing a forward thinking and ‘four-quadrant’ style must be at the forefront of architectural theory.

Bruce Buckland, Director at Buckland Architecture, Canterbury

The Big Rethink

The Architectural Review is inviting essays. letters and contributions to engage with The Big Rethink. Write to

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