Are We in the Midst of Architecture’s Greatest Crisis?

21Jan15

by The Angry Architect @architizer.com

…The past month or so has seen the publication of a series of startling, apocalyptic Op-Eds, causing quite a stir amongst architects and critics alike, and with President Obama’s State of the Union address this evening, we feel compelled to take stock of the debate in our domain. In mid-December, The New York Times kicked off the debate with an opinion piece by critics Steven Bingler and Martin Pedersen, who told us ‘How To Rebuild Architecture,’ presenting the hyperbolic thesis that the industry is currently lying in ruins. According to them, our profession has ironically imploded in the face of our ballooning egos, and a longstanding inability to listen to those who must ultimately live with our designs: the humble public.

…With such dismissive words, Betsky ignores an inconvenient truth: in most cases, directly or indirectly, the public is the client. Residential developers must ultimately sell their houses to buyers, the owners of a gallery or museum must attract visitors through their doors, commercial developers must attract tenants to their offices, ministers must attract their congregation. Collectively, these third parties — the public, in its many guises — hold sway over the true value of the architecture we design, and also the purpose of our industry. Betsky disregards them at his peril.

…Bingler and Pedersen’s piece does not, as Betsky fears, call for the stifling of innovation in order to produce ‘safe, predictable’ architecture from some bygone era. Their call for greater collaboration with the public need not result in an ocean of pastiche compromises. Betsky’s argument reads as a battle between modernism and traditional architecture, like a sequel to Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ — but this debate should not be about style, it should be about quality. If we can increase the architectural quality and workmanship of our built environment, we may stand a better chance of convincing the general public that our designs our worthy — no matter how ‘shocking’ or ‘startling’ they may be.

Read the full article here

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