ruminations about architecture and design

Thursday, April 17, 2014

talking of michelangelo in the room

A student recently remarkd: "Architecture today is the death of change."

I once read an account of Michelangelo's approach to architecture. He operated in a theatre of constant experiment and movement. He would have full scale mock-ups of mouldings and materials hoisted up building facades so that he could study them from different vantage points. He was demanding that things be torn down and rebuilt because he was dissatisfied with the effect. For him, the building could never be complete. It is curious to compare how his process in subtractive sculpture was to remove the stone that was hiding a preordained shape in a block of marble.

I think I agree with that student, insofar as there is an expectation from nearly all members of a design and construction team that a building be fully realized in the computer prior to a shovel of dirt being moved. Changes in process are inevitable, but the success of project management is too often measured by how slender the portfolio of change orders can be.

Building users, however, operate in a state of constant motion--either through occupant turnover or the natural evolution of space requirements. Their frustration can be latent and repressed, or it can manifest itself in rebellion against the structure being occupied. People move, and buildings have to move also. The only static architecture is a tomb.

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