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The Big Rethink Part 6: Learning from Four Modern Masters


I’m not an architect but as I think architecture can affect us all, I’m following the Big Rethink of AR with great interest. A trip I’ve made from Vienna to Bratislava in 1990 came to me as an unforgettable experience that reminded me of how important is for anyone the quality of space surrounding us and consequently how important is architecture to our lives. Leaving Vienna with all its buildings – some very modern, others dating from the Austro-Hungarian Empire old times, but all very well interfused with green spaces and gardens – I couldn’t imagine what expected me some kilometers eastward. The border between the countries of Austria and Czechoslovakia (later divided into Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic) still had, in 1990, some signals of a divided political territory which consequences I hadn’t preview to be so well evidenced also at an architectural level. But they were. Although Bratislava had its historic old buildings giving the place some sense of time and space, the buildings that were constructed during the communist period for residential purposes, consisted of a series of grey building «boxes», without any balconies and ‘monotony’ was the only word I found to describe them. Street after street, corner after corner, they were all equal, and I soon realized that they were surely able to make their inhabitants unhappy. Equally unhappy I guessed. Since that trip I never dismissed architecture’s role in our lives, and this belief is being strengthened by reading the enriching articles published here at the AR Big Rethink. In my opinion, monotony may symbolize a lack of independence in designing. Independence is therefore crucial to avoid monotony. And here comes another concept – Interdependence- which at first glance may seem incompatible with the former, although they both fulfill important roles in an architectural context. Independence could be simply viewed as «what makes us free from other(s) perspective(s)/ways of thinking/perceiving» and Interdependence as simply viewed as «what turns us connected with other(s) main shared values/principles». Independence would allow Liberty in designing. Interdependence(s) would remind us of the Responsibility of interfering with the existing landscape. Independence links to Interdependence as Liberty links to Responsibility. An optimal equilibrium of both may seem essential to any good architectural intervention which won’t result neither in ‘monotony’ (when Independence is fully absent) nor in a ‘mess’ (when Interdependence is fully absent). In a ‘monotony scenario’ creativity was discarded and in a ‘messy scenario’ all historic, social and cultural heritage was forgotten. To promote good design in harmony with the surrounding milieu requires both Independence and Interdependence. In a course about Architecture Photography I’ve attended, I become aware of J. Shulman work and biography and I found very interesting the way he cited the need to promote good design in harmony with the environment as a «war on community ugliness». I think this war needs Good Architecture. Nowadays there are big narratives about ‘sustainable architecture’; and ‘green architecture’. Concerning all these ‘green’ issues it is interesting to remind Souto de Moura (Portuguese Architect winner of the 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize) perspective revealing us that «there is not such a thing as sustainable architecture, there is only Good Architecture». As a biologist I’m unable to define which ‘ingredients’ we need to a Good Architecture but I share here with AR readers a brief modest draft model on which I thought this ‘Good Architecture’ could evolve from. It is a similar model to the double-helix model of DNA with an appearance of a twisted ladder or spiral staircase, where the concepts of Interdependence and Independence could be the two rails of the ladder and from where appeared the ladder rungs which would be composed of half-rungs that attached each other complementary (as it happens with DNA bases: A-T; G-C). These rungs would include all main traits that form the essential core of architectural knowledge, which could be paired according to their mutual complementary. For instance, ‘artistic forms’ could be paired with ‘functionality’; ‘creativity’ could be paired with ‘heritage traits’, and so on… This ‘double-helix model for Good Architecture’ would be in a constant evolution being fulfilled with updated concepts considered as relevant, in order to grant that the «war on community ugliness» would be a ‘winning war’, as it is my desire, as a citizen that is not an architect but is aware that architecture affect us all.

Posted date

8 June, 2012

Posted time

9:12 pm