ruminations about architecture and design

Saturday, November 16, 2013

indifference and frustration

Would it be fair to characterize Americans as nostalgic realists? Or would that imply a level of sophistication and introspection that is a projection of my own sense of nostalgia? Did I have a golden age? Do I look back on some period and regard it better than now? I remember a brief period of cheap gasoline when Clinton was president, and I remember all the frustration of youth. The age of mobility has been compromised by a gradual increase in energy costs, and the next generation has to be more careful with choices. And in that regard, the hope of the future is that it is still distinguished by choices--so different from the harsh choice of so many humans past and present--die of violence or die of hunger.

For the modern architect, the overwhelming number of choices--whether in the realm of material selections or design philosophy--is handled in a thoroughly brutal manner. Simply put, most choices are not even considered as worthwhile. Methods that worked in the past are put to use on future projects with minor revisions. Materials and construction systems are dictated by convention and economy. Experimentation is praised, but only for exceptional circumstances and with a whiff of disdain as much as admiration. It is only by setting clear boundaries that the architect can accomplish any work at all, much less survive long enough to find the next job.

What seems odd, is that architects appear frustrated, and are quick to claim to be frustrated by clients, budgets, shoddy contractors, poorly educated staff, and volatile economic situations. The show goes on, and the struggle between indifference and frustration plays itself out in venues like schools and magazines. And blogs, oh yes, for what is this place but a platform of grievances?

Royal Barry Wills seems to have been better at concealing his frustrations.

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