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Old 02-14-2011, 01:56 PM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
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It's not often acknowledged that architecture and culture are intimately tied, but clearly they are. Archaelologists can recreate the ways of life for many varied and long gone civilizations just by studying the ruins they left behind, for example. You can also tell which european country you are in simply by viewing the (usually older) buildings that surround you.


So which drives which? Do we build according to our cultural wants/needs/desires or do we created those wants/needs/desires by the way we design and experience our built environments?

It seems to me that current architectural works focus on option #2. Architects build structures with the clear intent of provoking feelings from people experiencing their structures. Also, regional styles have all but vanished in this country. Is that the "right" way to do things or is it really pandering to the egos of the architects?
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Old 02-14-2011, 07:07 PM
 
Location: Louisiana to Houston to Denver to NOVA
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I want to comment but I don't quite understand the last part.
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Old 02-14-2011, 08:28 PM
 
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I think it happens both ways at the same time. I think the architects now may have too much ego, and they don't build in a way that makes people feel good. I think a lot of people are horrified by modern architecture of the post-WWII era, I know I am and I much prefer the 1700s-1930s era style that America had (at least it makes sense small towns, the Northeast and Midwest mostly).

I think it happens both ways now because the architecture of now with strip malls and McMansions reflects peoples desires which is cheap and affordable, and lots of space which we can see with vast expansive parking lots and very little decorations and boxes. Many Americans of today want as low cost and convenient as possible and don't care about beauty or functions to promote community and pride (the good pride, not the bad one) as the architects of the pre-WWII era did. Since that is what Americans of today want, architects give them more of it, and since they get more of it, people get used to it and living a low cost lifestyle they get nervous when things get more expensive thus they want it to be the same otherwise it will make life harder.

Thus that is why architecture reflects today's American's wants (cheap and convenient of today's strip malls and McMansions) and they want more of the same since they've grown up knowing that and not wanting the other which would lead to higher costs and giving up the car.

I also find it horrible that they've got rid of regional styles or made a "Mc" version of it as if it were McDonaldized with a huge beverage and fries included with it. When things become too monotomous life becomes boring and that is why I like some aspects of smart growth/New Urbanism because they aim (although not always successfully since its still a new idea) to give places a sense of "place" and not be an endless suburb of the same everything. They also want in New Urbanist/Smart growth thought want to give people the ability to democratically allow people to have a voice in determining how a development will develop to some extent, and not have it be just in the hands of architect planners. People are gradually learning although I feel too slowly, the horrors that modernist architecture and Robert Moses-type of developments, and suburbs/McMansionization brings.

The built enviornment influences us in a lot of ways and we through our wants and needs influence it quite strongly too.
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Old 02-14-2011, 08:49 PM
 
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A lot of modern architects seem to have the opinion that if people don't like their hifalutin' architecture, it is the public that is fault, not their own failure to design buildings people like. A lot of them think they're Howard Roark. On the other hand, most of their designs tend to be pretty much rectangles designed to maximize square footage on a given footprint, and the semi-random application of different kind of siding on an otherwise pretty much featureless rectangular wall is supposed to be their bold artistic statement about the nature of rectangularity.

You have to go back a pretty long way to find anything resembling a strictly "regional" style in architecture, other than climatic adaptations--even in the mid-19th century, typically the first thing a new city did was start throwing up buildings that used the latest styles from the East Coast to show how cosmopolitan they were.
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Old 02-15-2011, 01:46 AM
 
Location: Toledo, OH
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I agree. A lot of it is ego driven. First person that comes to my mind is Le Corbusier. He though of a house as a "machine for living". I don't know how much more ignorant of the emotional and subconscious connection with places one can be. I think he's an example of an architect and planner who designed for himself and didnt understand or care about peoples deepest yearnings.

Radiant City my ass. Glad we didn't have to suffer that concept. Oh wait...
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Old 02-15-2011, 06:04 AM
 
Location: Cincinnati
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i think the simple, +- 1200 SF ranch house so common after WWII was a good example of architecture following culture and creating a worthwhile product. the floor plan made sense on the newly-enjoyed large suburban lot and there weren't the terrible trade-offs made in the name of getting more space. most ranches are visually logical if not pleasing. compare this with the mcmansions of today, which are visually jarring and often quite difficult to look at.
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Old 02-15-2011, 09:03 AM
 
Location: New York City
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Real, visionary architecture is very expensive and is used for few buildings: libraries, concert halls, corporate headquarters, etc. Most domestic architecture is driven by developers, not architects. An architect may by hired to “design” a McMansion, but it’s not an aesthetic exercise. It’s about a developer guessing what the public will want and giving very specific specification to the architect.

The dominant trend in domestic architecture is conservative (historicist) grandiosity on the cheap. It’s all about maximizing interior space and layers of ersatz ornamentation. Architects have nothing to do with this.
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:18 AM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
13,138 posts, read 22,806,250 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annie_himself View Post
I want to comment but I don't quite understand the last part.
I guess I'm trying to ask if the ego and vision of individual architects gets in the way of buiding for our true cultural needs/wants/ext, and if it has a negative rather than positive effect on culture.
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:51 AM
 
Location: Louisiana to Houston to Denver to NOVA
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I would say yes, architecture is more of a business than it was in 1551. And as a progressive species everything we do is based on topping someones accomplishments, it's how we've lived for these many years, I don't see it changing for the better or worse. Maybe in year 4000 where all of the resources are tapped...
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Old 02-15-2011, 11:15 AM
 
Location: New York City
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What is a “true cultural need?”

Most people want reproduction furniture. What does that say of the culture?

I think architecture should be efficient, sustainable and say something about how we live now. It should relate to tradition in what has gone before, but it should be of this time. Not a cheap copy of buildings from hundreds of years ago. This is a minority view.

Most people choose architecture that makes them feel grand; it’s the home-as-castle American dream. People want to live in Disneyland, behind a mock-Tudor, or mock-Colonial, or mock-Mediterranean façade. Architects are not telling people to live this way.
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