ruminations about architecture and design

Sunday, November 28, 2010

interesting looking tree

This is an interesting looking tree. It is also the best introduction I can think of on the topic of architectural criticism. My thoughts on this are scattered, so pay attention to the picture of the tree, frozen in time, with a backdrop of perfectly blue sky, and pause to appreciate that absent a really bad series of events this image will be preserved by Google for eternity.
Criticism is the most important part of the architectural design process. The harshest critiques must come from the designer most responsible for producing the images and other documents that translate the effort into a built project. The designer must also seek out criticism from others during all points of the design process, because an individual cannot know everything about a particular problem and the insights of peers and passersby always have the potential to enrich the work. The designer needs occasional solitary moments, but must resist extending these periods and run the risk of alienating the work from the broader society.
Architectural criticism, in the popular press, always amounts to closing the barn door after the horse has run off. "Only time will tell" is the most valuable statement the post-facto critic can make after reviewing or experiencing a work of architecture. "People will grow to love it" is the stupidest thing than can be said by a critic or apologist after some ghastly, overwrought and ego driven design is foisted off as a great work. At any point in time, the architecture is subject to a "taste test"--the initial impression of a new user--which is the most honest and effective assessment of the value of the work at hand. The user may experience a feeling, or combination of feelings, some contradictory, ranging from delight, awe, annoyance, indifference, and contempt. The reaction of indifference and contempt are legitimate and represent a failing on the part of the architect to design the building well. No excuses should be made for the education, cultural background, age or gender of the user. Their feelings, sensual and unexplainable, are a legitimate judgment.

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