ruminations about architecture and design

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

defining the character of american architecture

More accurately,the architecture of the United States of America, dating from the post-war period into the near future. (Which war? We fight so many.) It behooves me to state that "character" should be regarded as a neutral description, and it encompasses the specific visual elements of a style as well as the compendium of attitudes that people bear towards that style.We often speak of something or someone as having "character" in a positive way, but truly, all things have it. I was prepared at one time to make the claim that American architecture had no character, that we had perfected the art of buildings devoid of lasting meaning or individuality. I realized that I was being stupid, and I needed to wrestle with the question that I have had ever since I was first exposed to architecture as a profession/craft/expressionistic fine art. That question comes in two parts: What am I looking at? Why does it look like that? I'm regretting not taking more art history courses, because now I have to make stuff up as a I go along. The very least I can do is propose a list of the most striking, but not necessarily the most important, aspects and attributes of the built world that I have grown up in:

-Settlement that is subordinate to landscape
-The triumph of systems over visual delight

In future posts, I may elaborate on this. Or not. Towers of Ilium prizes its lack of consistency and commitment.

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