Why the obsession in so much contemporary architectural discourse with the bourgeois residential villa and the ‘luxury’ good? Oh, the terrible banality of Antony Gormley’s ‘luxury’ hotel room. Nice, I guess (or not, actually) if you have £2500 a night to stay there.
Much of the time it seems every architectural magazine reduces architecture to the ‘object’ available to those that can afford it. If I never saw another ‘high end’ residential project, I’m not sure I’d care – and yet this is the staple of almost all archiporn ‘design’ sites.
Where the discussion of the consequences of architecture, of what architecture enables, engenders and encourages? Actually, I do know where it is, but bloody hell, it’s buried so far beneath architectural consciousness, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it was there.
There’s such a general presumption in favour of a building as an end, rather than as a catalyst for societal change or growth. But, architecture isn’t industrial design – which, for better or worse, is a discipline that focuses on the vessel. Sure, things can be interesting on their own terms, and I’m guilty too. I like stuff. But unless design goes beyond the object, it’s a world of commodities, a world where design exclusively produces trinkets for the privileged.
Mies, I think, has got a lot to answer for. I remain suspicious of his superficial and cod-metaphysical manifesto. The default comfort zone for many of us is a zone where perfectly formed, preened, plucked and waxed buildings are revered as quasi sacred spaces, spaces that are a collection of ‘surfaces’ and ‘details’. To think that this is all architecture is, is not just tragic, it is dangerous, as it takes away the conversation from where it needs to be centred – around the corollary of design.
I stumbled upon a text by a reasonably well known practitioner recently that began ‘Like most architects, I have a great reverence for Mies van der Rohe. When I think of him, his exquisitely detailed and extraordinarily elegant buildings come immediately to mind’, and by God (who isn’t in the details, or anywhere else for that matter) I felt an ennui, a terrible weariness that, we really haven’t moved on much as a profession really. We’re still slack jawed and glazed eyed with lust at the palpability of things, and busy chasing that perfect opulent project that allows our inner mini-Mies to flourish.