The big rethink revisited

05Dec14

architectural review. 21 November 2014 | By Peter Buchanan

Much of this essay, then, deals with the subjective realms of psychology and culture, their equally subjective underpinnings in sense of identity, and the often subliminal beliefs reinforcing that identity. All this is axiomatically not amenable to objective proof, so die-hard Modernists might be inclined to dismiss much of the argument. The question to ask then is: would designing as if what is said were true, or even entertaining that possibility, result in better architecture − that which is richer and more resonant, that better enhances life and our cities, and is easier to relate to and more likely to advance the quest for sustainability? It would be difficult, and extremely perverse, to say no.

Richard Rogers’ Zip Up House

Richard Rogers’ Zip Up House, a kit of parts that offers flexibility but again is a suburban solution

Being at home in the world
House and home are often not synonymous today. Houses, for many, are largely investments, somewhere to live before trading up. So families grow up without the deep roots bestowed by a stable home, particularly one passed down through the generations; and by undermining any sense of rooted belonging, this inevitably impacts people’s notions of self and identity. And instead of adapting the house to the family’s particularities, it will be remodelled to enhance resale value. But as the glossies show, contemporary houses and domestic interiors are pristine displays and status symbols rather than for living in; they are particularly hostile to the messy vitality of children. This applies equally to: the frigidly minimalist, prohibiting clutter or rearrangement; dwellings crammed with objets d’art or whatever; and to much in between that is equally inhibiting of spontaneity and ease. These examples are, of course, indulgences of the developed world; yet they affect aspirations everywhere. But for much of the developing world a safe and stable home is a dream for their children to achieve while they worry about their shacks being cleaned out by gangsters or demolished by the authorities.

‘There are still those who buy the Bucky Fuller and Banham line that lightweight − or seemingly lightweight − buildings are materially efficient and gentle in environmental impacts’

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