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Topic: what is architecture

1.  what is architecture

Posted 18 days ago
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This is the first post in an attempt to rejuvenate a specifically COD focused discussion forum.  That is not to suggest that I think I know, or personally represent, what COD members care about.  As these discussions go, I probably have relatively eggheaded concerns.  Feel free to press this back towards reality if that's your thing.
What is architecture?  Let's talk about parking garages.  When we were in Austin there was a parking garage a few blocks east and north of the conference hotel that had a wonderfully sublime presence.  In Denver, I remember seeing a parking garage which was one of the most enjoyable presences in downtown Denver.  Frank Gehry, early on, made a splash by reskinning a parking garage in Santa Monica (in that case, though, there was more to the project).  All of these projects probably won AIA awards.  But is it architecture?  If it is, in what sense?  Many of us are beholden to the idea that when we do a building, we do the whole building.  That is, form, plan, material, detail, even furniture all matter in terms of the success of a project.  In the case of these parking garages the architect's work is limited to the facade.  For the most part, it could be claimed, the architect's job is to hide the rest of the project.  How can that be architecture? Or to put it another way, how is putting a non-sequitir skin on a parking garage different from putting a neo-colonial face on a modern building?  I look forward to your thoughts.  I also would love to see some images of better or worse examples of parking lot architecture.

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Mike Mense FAIA
mmenseArchitect
New York NY
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2.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 18 days ago
Frozen Music
I just got home from a performance of Beethoven's 9th on period instruments.  Why in the heck would you want to freeze music?
And how boring would it be!  Our work cannot be as dynamic as music, but the experience of it can be.  Lets focus on that experience more than the stuff that is frozen.
Just sayin'

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Mike Mense FAIA
mmenseArchitect
New York NY
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3.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 17 days ago

I couldn't agree less.  You state that "many of us are beholden to the idea that when we do a building, we do the whole building".  Clearly you are assuming that the architect's role is limited to the skin – which is inaccurate in many if not most cases.  You also imply that the only requirement for this skin is to hide the contents – which, again, is inaccurate.  Finally, I am not sure what you would think a "sequitir" skin would be in this case.  Appropriately, given the aforementioned assumptions, your logic seems pretty thin and superficial.

 

I would argue that circulation in and through these structures – both vehicular and pedestrian – are essential architectural concerns.  In the best examples these factors, appropriately, inform the architects process when they design these facilities – the whole facility, not just the skin.  I certainly remember a couple of National AIA Honor Award winning parking structures in my state (Iowa) by Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck that were (and are) spectacular.

 

Congrats....I have never responded to this thread.  Mission accomplished - you have provoked discussion.

 

Paul Mankins FAIA, LEED AP
Principal

substancearchitecture

1300 Walnut Street, Suite 201
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
T 515-699-1650   O 515-243-4407
substancearchitecture.com

 






4.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 16 days ago
All, I have been the architect for many parking structures. I assure you I was responsible for everything...facade (aesthetic "acceptance"), ALL site and internal pedestrian and vehicular circulation, and EVERYTHING ELSE, including down to the location of the deck drains. There were consultants, and I certainly needed their expertise; but, in "THOSE" meetings (you all know the ones I am referring too), I was the one responsible to all. And, that has been the case for all the projects I was involved with in 44 years of 'practice'. Please, that is the reality of architecture. Thank you.....

All the BEST!
Joey




5.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 15 days ago
Joey
Thank you very much for helping to get this conversation going. Your point is well taken.

I would like to suggest that there is an important, and troubling, distinction between our definitions of architecture and our understandings of the current practice of architecture. There are many ways to go at this. I am going to raise just two.

For most of the history of architecture, in terms of time, the team consisted of the Owner, the Builder and the Architect. Now, a myriad of engineers have joined the team. Your description of those meetings, as you know, features many of those engineers. The architect in those meetings, I think it is fair to say, especially in the case of a parking garage, is as a reactive gatekeeper. I don't believe we think of Palladio, Christopher Wren, HH Richardson, or even Le Corbusier, in that role. I'm not sure our education's adequately prepare us for this new role.

To flip it over though, much historic architecture that we love consists of buildings who's
plans and sections are formulaic. The "architecture" in these cases inheres in the facades, the composition of windows and doors, the expression of materials and the ornamentation of all of it.
One of the original tenets of modernism was a determination to restore and express or reveal the relationship between the three dimensional piece and its facades.

I hope I have managed to at least hint at the discrepancy I am trying to illuminate. I hope others both in support and opposition can further clarify and pursue these issues, or spin off into other areas of interest.

Thanks again.
Mike


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6.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 16 days ago
About 1-2 years after getting my professional degree, I started work at a firm that had won the AIA Architecture Firm award a few years before.  The second day on the job, the head of the firm came up to my drafting table and asked me how I was doing.  I said, "Fine."  Then he asked me, "What is Architecture?"  I was taken aback by his question, and when I didn't respond in about 5 seconds, he tore into me in front of our colleagues and asked me how I could possibly be an architect (and be worthy of working for him) if I didn't know the answer to that question!

Suffice it to say, I tried to address that problem PDQ.  This particular community discussion brought that incident to mind.

Everyone has a different answer to the question, one that likely is derived from how they were schooled, the teachers and colleagues with whom they came in contact in school and later in practice, and the sense they have of what is driving them in their own design searches.  There is no single right answer, but having an answer to direct one's thinking seems necessary..

I settled on this definition for myself:  Architecture is the translation of a thought and/or emotion by means of ordering and shaping environmental elements.  Note:  Those elements can include things like trees and earth and water, as well as building walls and roofs and abstract shapes that might not enclose anything. For example, Andre LeNostre's garden at Vaux-le-Vicomte is as much "architecture" to me as is LeCorbusier's chapel at Ronchamps or Richard Serra's large pieces or Eisenmann's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin or any of a number of striking tenant spaces within otherwise banal buildings.  They all allow one to go around and/or through them and provide a rich and, sometimes, intense experience.

Others may prefer a narrower definition, but this one works for me.  It also allows me to differentiate a "building" from a "work of architecture."









7.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 15 days ago
John
This is a wonderful story and a thoughtful definition. Thank you for contributing. I realize my response here is off target but, well, anyway, here it is. When I was young there was some sense that there were "drawing" schools and "talking" schools. Sounds like you went to a drawing school and your principal went to a talking school. Rumor had it that Berkeley was a talking school. I am pretty sure I went to a drawing school which was good for me because I was and still am a talker. Jean Nouvelle is a talker. I would argue that Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry are talkers. I wonder if anyone else has any interest in this subject.
Thanks again for contributing.
Mike

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8.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 4 days ago
Mike --  You do have me curious now about the difference you make between "talking schools" and "drawing schools," particularly after having given an example of a "talking school" as UC Berkeley and your alma mater as a "drawing school", but then giving examples of "talking" architects as Nouvel, Mayne, and Gehry.  (All three have had successful careers and done lots of interesting buildings, so they are doing much more than "talking." At first, I thought you were perhaps making a distinction between architects in academia and architects in practice, and by extension, possibly, between the schools that tended to graduate each type and with which architects like these three may associate as adjunct faculty.

My guess is that it is more likely that you are pointing out a difference between schools that tend to shape their programs more toward practice skill topics (learning about materials and construction details, for example, or business practices) vs. those that may focus most of the study on design, design theory, and architectural history.

The principal of the firm to whom I made reference in my earlier post was, indeed, a Berkeley architectural undergrad and then got a 1-year master's degree at Harvard, if I recall.  He wasn't a naturally talented designer, but he definitely had a well-thought out point of view about design.  I experienced a practice environment like none other I had before or after my time in that office.  We did no working drawings (it was his feeling that what architects did best was design, and that's what most of their time should be spent doing), all drawing was done freehand with ink (markers) .... no T-squares and triangles .... and all done using a 13" foot module so that the dimensioning of the buildings would  more closely align with the metric system that most of the world was using and that the U.S. construction industry would eventually use as well.

Although the firm didn't do working drawings, it did hand over a very, very extensive set of design development drawings to the firms with which it partnered to do the working drawings, and tracked their work closely.  When a client came to the office for a meeting, in the conference room on the wall large rolls of newsprint paper were mounted.  As the meeting went on, everything was written/drawn/noted on that paper, and as the meeting came close to ending, someone from the office would quickly go over to the nearby print shop to have those large paper rolls xeroxed and reduced to 8 1/2x11 or so size sheets so the client could leave the office with the meeting's notes.  It was very impressive, I must say, and the standards that the office had for its work forever made an impression on me.

------------------------------
John McLean AIA
John McLean, Architect
San Francisco CA
------------------------------



------------------------------
John McLean AIA
John McLean, Architect
San Francisco CA
------------------------------
-------------------------------------------
Original Message:
Sent: 04-14-2017 12:16
From: Mike Mense
Subject: what is architecture

John
This is a wonderful story and a thoughtful definition. Thank you for contributing. I realize my response here is off target but, well, anyway, here it is. When I was young there was some sense that there were "drawing" schools and "talking" schools. Sounds like you went to a drawing school and your principal went to a talking school. Rumor had it that Berkeley was a talking school. I am pretty sure I went to a drawing school which was good for me because I was and still am a talker. Jean Nouvelle is a talker. I would argue that Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry are talkers. I wonder if anyone else has any interest in this subject.
Thanks again for contributing.
Mike

Sent from my iPad








9.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 15 days ago
Just joking on the test! There is not a test on aesthetics, technology, urban planning, community development, neighborhood content and context, sculptured facilities, front yards versus back yards and way finding inside the building versus the outside world.





10.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 15 days ago
Steven
I am sure you are trying to tell us something important. Maybe I am the only dunderhead but I am very confused. Can you clarify?
Mike

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11.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 8 days ago
Steven
I must have missed something. Can you clarify the point of your comments?
Thanks for participating.
Mike

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12.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 15 days ago
Paul
Your comments are thoughtful and compelling. I think we agree about architecture but I think we still disagree about this specific case. You asked about a "sequitir skin" (it's great, like all good architects we are already making up new words). I think there are many cues one could use to develop such a skin. The geometry of the garage, the structure of the garage, the function of parking structure, and the context in which said parking garage is being placed are a number of sources that seem legitimate and potentially illuminating to me. Maybe one of the problems is the inherent conflict between what's good for a humane city and a building who's function is the accommodation of automobiles in the city. That said, of course multi-level parking is always better than surface parking, but that doesn't necessarily convince us, at least in our heart of hearts, that we want to celebrate them.

I would say again that, while I love the Denver garage as a presence in the city, I am still not convinced that it is a work of architecture (which is a separate question from that of whether it's the work of an architect). Isn't it more of a billboard or mural?
Be well.
Mike

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13.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 16 days ago
  |   view attached
I couldn't resist responding to Mike Mense's comments on garages with a snapshot of a recent project. The university is promoting "collegiate gothic" for its new buildings. As a advocate for historicism when it is appropriate, I have no philosophical problem with this, though it was an interesting challenge to attempt a "collegiate gothic" parking structure. There is more here than a set of facades, although within it is simply an efficient three bay concrete garage. So is it architecture?  I think so, having gotten past the dual preconceptions that architecture must be an integrated work of design through and through, and that 3000 years of experience from the past have no relevance for the present.

------------------------------
Kenneth Moffett AIA
Bullock Smith & Partners
Knoxville TN
------------------------------



14.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 15 days ago
What is architecture you ask?  The answers could fill volumes, and do.  But you're focusing on an interesting building type - parking garages, and whether or not they can really be considered architecture.  In addition to this question, you have raised an issue about whether or not an architect who designs only the facade of a parking garage is really creating architecture. 
Since parking garages are a building type, how can you question whether or not parking garages constitute architecture? They have a program, they occupy space in the built environment, they are used by people to conduct a human activity.  These all sound like aspects of architecture to me.  True, they don't have as robust a program as say, a hospital, but that may allow them to be even more expressive of design than other building types because the design doesn't need to get bogged down with complex functional requirements.  Setting aside parking garages that have a street level retail component or other mixed use, the program for a parking garage is fairly straightforward - a place where automobiles are stored when they are not being used for transportation.  A primary goal is to store the automobiles in an efficient manner, resulting in a minimal cost per car.  This is a functional type problem closer akin to engineering,  There is another goal of maximizing the visitor's experience of arriving at the parking garage, searching for a place to store the vehicle, disembarking the automobile, and exiting the garage.  While these goals are important, the parking garage client, the governing authority charged with determining whether or not the parking garage should be allowed to exist in the first place, and the general public at large are generally more concerned with the appearance of the garage and how it fits into the community.  While a parking garage does not need a "skin" in order for it to perform its intended purpose, most of the time, the aforementioned stakeholders prefer that the structure and the automobiles be concealed to some extent.  They often consider the "skin" to be the most important part of the building.  Inasmuch as the design of a parking garage "skin" is a response to a problem that has been raised by the client and community, and is part of the building's program, how could it not be considered architecture?  Since it has the most impact on the surrounding community, and since it does not need to be burdened with a complex program, the skin of a parking garage is a wonderful architectural design opportunity to consider such issues as the relationship of solids and voids, light and shadow, texture and pattern, translucency and opaqueness.  Smells like architecture to me.  Are you saying that if an architect receives a commission to design the exterior of a parking garage, that his/her efforts should not be considered architecture?  That's preposterous!  Architecture is the sum of the parts.  But it can also be the parts themselves.  Your contention that architecture doesn't exist unless it is concerned with a building in its entirety is just too limiting.
To make my point, I'd like to direct your attention to a parking garage that was designed by hometown St. Louis architectural firm, HOK.  When this garage was nearing completion,  I noticed that each level of the concrete structure above the street level retail space was painted a different pleasant color, which was good, but then came the application of the "skin".  I was taken aback by the powerful effect of the design solution.  In St. Louis, the wind doesn't blow all that often.  But when it does, look at the effect it has on the facade of this parking garage!  We all know what wind sounds like.  We can see its effects, from a leaf blowing down the street to trees bent over or toppled, but we can never actually see the wind.  This kinetic parking garage facade allows us to "see" what the wind looks like, and in the process transforms itself from mere architecture to a public work of art on a grand scale!  That's something that very few buildings can achieve, let alone a component of a building.  Putting a non-sequitur skin on a parking garage probably isn't much different that putting a neocolonial face on a modern building.  Neither one is a good idea. But putting a well-designed, thoughtful, even meaningful skin on a parking garage is as valid a work of architecture as any other.


------------------------------
Randall L Comfort AIA
Comfort Architecture
Saint Louis MO
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15.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 8 days ago
Randall, and others,

Sometimes, maybe, you have to dust, even polish a little, a well-loved piece of furniture in order to bring it back into the picture. That is, things and ideas we live with every day tend to slump into the background and escape notice. Please understand my questions as attempts to dust off our old friend, and nemesis, architecture. Architecture, not the products or the practice, but the act, the act of architecture, is inherently a creative process. It is a process of gathering a uniquely aggregated collection of forces and making something new that is exceptionally responsive to that unique set of forces. Art in various forms is a similar act. Being about constructed environments is what sets architecture apart from all other acts of art. The two parking garages I cited were free-standing four sided structures. I am pretty sure we know the best plans and sections for those. Sometimes it is foolish to reinvent the wheel. I hope that a skilled architect would accept what we know about parking garages and follow the advice of the engineers and money people. Speculative office buildings as architectural projects are similar to parking garages. Although I respect the work of architects who skin office buildings and parking garages, I am still not quite convinced that it is an architectural project.
Cheerfully and respectfully
Mike

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16.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 12 days ago
Its hard to visit the garages in the attached photos and not recognize them as architecture.  The question is, why are they architecture and why is or is not the garage down the street not architecture?  In the examples there are a few things happening:  1. massing/planning that responds to the site limitations or opportunities  2. a willful expression of the human circulation systems 3. an attitude, or even celebration, of the building components in terms of how they are detailed. 4. There is actually very little going on with respect to the envelopes, but rather an unabashed expression of the essential parts.
The ordinary everyday garage has these ingredients as well but to varying degrees and usually with much less consideration.  Does that exclude them from falling under the umbrella of "architecture"?  They are still spatial constructs that address the needs of people and their vehicles, so I would say not, but they are not the strongest examples.
This topic reminds me of something we used to say in our practice about spec office buildings; that all of the architecture existed in the outer 12" of the building.  'More hyperbole than truth!

------------------------------
Stephen Altherr AIA
Architect, Manager
MS Consultants
Coraopolis PA
------------------------------



17.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 11 days ago
This is the first time that I have engaged in this forum.  I felt compelled to write because I wrote a book on parking garages and studied their evolution.  At the turn of the 20th century this building type was designed and built by all of the famous architects and was an amazing opportunity in structure, façade compositions, space, and planning - as well a delight!  Many of you are working (your offices may be in) in one of these old parking garages today.  They were an integral part of the urban fabric and designed just as beautifully as any building of the time.  How ramps emerged was another amazing exploration in space, form, structure and construction for cars and people. As the new movement system, the car was arriving into our built environment - how to house it - became a critical architectural and planning challenge, I believe the most important of the 20th century.  About mid-century as the building type became its "standardized" form that we think of today - cost and efficiency became the norm - although the single and double tee developed due to this typology at this time.  Recently, we are seeing a resurgence in interest in the typology with many new amazing architectural and planning solutions. Oh yes and by the way - the earliest greens roofs were on parking garages!! - and so much more innovation.  However, I think that the best is yet to come, as our movement system is about to change again - and from my perspective how we move through space is what  creates and changes design thinking.

------------------------------
Shannon McDonald AIA
Associate Professor
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Carbondale IL
------------------------------



18.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 8 days ago
Stephen
I don't know about hyperbole in this case. I do appreciate your showing these images. I am tempted to think that you are supporting my position by seeming to advocate for parking garage designs that illuminate their structure and purpose. I would make the case that that is an architectural act, while the non-sequitir skins are art of a different sort.
Thanks for contributing.
Mike

Sent from my iPad




19.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 12 days ago
Its hard to visit the garages in the attached photos and not recognize them as architecture.  The question is, why are they architecture and why is or is not the garage down the street not architecture?  In the examples there are a few things happening:  1. massing/planning that responds to the site limitations or opportunities  2. a willful expression of the human circulation systems 3. an attitude, or even celebration, of the building components in terms of how they are detailed. 4. There is actually very little going on with respect to the envelopes, but rather an unabashed expression of the essential parts.
The ordinary everyday garage has these ingredients as well but to varying degrees and usually with much less consideration.  Does that exclude them from falling under the umbrella of "architecture"?  They are still spatial constructs that address the needs of people and their vehicles, so I would say not, but they are not the strongest examples.
This topic reminds me of something we used to say in our practice about spec office buildings; that all of the architecture existed in the outer 12" of the building.  'More hyperbole than truth!

------------------------------
Stephen Altherr AIA
Architect, Manager
MS Consultants
Coraopolis PA
------------------------------



20.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 12 days ago

What is architecture? It's a good question, Mike. It's the same one Augustus asked Vitruvius. There are so many facets that must be reconciled to arrive at an answer! It's another design problem. We are often distracted by a few high priority facets and compromise with others to arrive at an answer. I think our education has taught us that there are many answers but few exceptional concepts. Intelligence gathering and logical evaluation are key ingredients. The following is a concept to consider:

Architecture is a tactical plan written and drawn to achieve a shelter objective with construction forces.

City design is a strategic plan written and drawn to achieve a goal with many tactical objectives that affect the Shelter, Movement, Open Space, and Life Support divisions of our Built Domain.

We must learn to shelter the activities of growing populations within limited geographic areas that protect their source of life – The Natural Domain.

The goal is a declared policy of symbiotic survival.



------------------------------
Walter Hosack
Dublin, OH
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21.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 11 days ago

This is the first time that I have engaged in this forum.  I felt compelled to write because I wrote a book on parking garages and studied their evolution.  At the turn of the 20th century this building type was designed and built by all of the famous architects and was an amazing opportunity in structure, façade compositions, space, and planning - as well a delight!  Many of you are working (your offices may be in) in one of these old parking garages today.  They were an integral part of the urban fabric and designed just as beautifully as any building of the time.  How ramps emerged was another amazing exploration in space, form, structure and construction for cars and people. As the new movement system, the car was arriving into our built environment - how to house it - became a critical architectural and planning challenge, I believe the most important of the 20th century.  About mid-century as the building type became its "standardized" form that we think of today - cost and efficiency became the norm - although the single and double tee developed due to this typology at this time.  Recently, we are seeing a resurgence in interest in the typology with many new amazing architectural and planning solutions. Oh yes and by the way - the earliest greens roofs were on parking garages!! - and so much more innovation.  However, I think that the best is yet to come, as our movement system is about to change again - and from my perspective how we move through space is what  creates and changes design thinking. 



------------------------------
Shannon McDonald AIA
Associate Professor
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Carbondale IL
------------------------------



22.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 10 days ago
I'm enjoying the dialogue. One of my mentors said something to the effect that some of us practice architecture to make money, and some of us make money so we can keep practicing architecture. I subscribe to the latter view, but recognize the pragmatic as well as virtuous aspects of that view. Parking structures, like many design opportunities we face, are typically highly constrained. Most are not opportunities for 'Architecture' with a capital 'A'. But, perhaps we can add value to the built environment and the experience of its occupants by doing 'architecture' with a little 'a'. Shakespeare made the idiom famous: Make a virtue of necessity. It may be that the little design stuff we do which never gets recognized by the critic/historian/jury, but makes something that could be a crappy experience for many users better in myriad small ways valid as 'architecture'. It is hopefully not the only way we as architects contribute to a better world, but it is perhaps one humble and important way, and we can do it better than just about any other discipline. I would argue that in many ways small 'a' architecture is harder to do well than big 'A' Architecture.

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F. Jeffrey Murray FAIA
Design Director
CH2M
Pittsburgh PA
------------------------------



23.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 9 days ago

The conversation is very interesting.  The comments of Mr. Murray, FAIA are certainly pertinent.

 

I used to officiate three different sports.  My mentors told me that you can only officiate the game as well as it is played.  Architecture is likely the same way.  An architect can only design any building including parking structures as well as the client or budget will allow.  Paul Rudolph and I.M. Pei designed parking garages.  I would say their garages are "A"rchitecture, at least at the time of their construction.  It seems as if Architecture can be applied to any building type – the limitations come from outside sources.  The "A" will normally apply to the exterior as the traffic layout will dictate the "a"rchitecture of the interior layout.

 

Greg Burke, AIA, NCARB

President

2017 AIA National Committee for Equity and the Future of Architecture

2015-2016 AIA Florida Vice President

2016 AIA National Diversity & Inclusion Council Vice-Chairman

 

 

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24.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 5 days ago
I agree with Greg that 'big A' Architecture can occur in any building type...nobody has yet mentioned the Herzog and de Meuron Miami parking garage [no applied screens there], but it gets top billing when you Google 'cool parking garages'. I also agree that 'small a' architecture can occur anywhere. I would suggest that A/a is not an either/or, binary conception, but really a gradient scale, and that the line between the two is fairly blurry. I think of Aalto who embraced the whole range at the Paimio sanatorium with the wash basins designed to eliminate the irritating sound of dripping water as brilliant 'small a' architecture/design in a project that is 'big A' architecture. On the other hand, at Fallingwater [a building I love, and is definitely big A] the kitchen strikes me as shockingly conventional in a building that is otherwise obsessively designed/detailed to maintain a consistent set of visual motifs...is this perhaps a missed opportunity for 'small a'? [maybe not the best example but it is the best I can conjure at the moment].

Personally, it all matters, and I think most good architects strive to incorporate as much 'architecture' along the full range of the A/a gradient as permitted by the constraints [perceived or otherwise] of the opportunity. Part of our goal is to take advantage of every opportunity to make A/a architecture within the constraints, always with the goal that our efforts make the world and the lives of people better.

------------------------------
F. Jeffrey Murray FAIA
Design Director/Architect
CH2M
Pittsburgh PA
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25.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 10 days ago

Architecture is everything we see, feel, and experience; every day of our entire life

 

 

Charles A. Michelson, AIA, LEED AP

Principal

 

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(954) 266-2701 Fax

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Miami, FL

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26.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 3 days ago
Shannon
It is great that you pitched in.  I bet that some of us would like to know more about your book and where we might be able to acquire it.  I think it would be great if you could submit here a simple diagrammatical history of the ramp.
I assume that when you say turn of the 20th century, you mean the end of that century.
thanks again and hope to see more

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Mike Mense FAIA
mmenseArchitect
New York NY
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27.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 3 days ago
I just came back from spending a few days in an ocean front hotel.  The room was fine (well, except for the veranda railing that did a lot of damage to the ocean view), all modern fixtures and finishes and so on.  In the bathroom, my head, and I am not abnormally tall, was completely above the mirror.  The light in the room, while better than a recessed can in that it did not entirely darken the adjacent ceiling, was placed directly behind where I stood in front of the mirror.  My backlit face was the hardest thing in the room to see.  I know there are those who think that's always a good thing.
But.
Are these deficiencies architecture?  Does your, did your, architecture school teach you about the practical "workings" of architecture?  Is it below architecture in that anyone with any common sense would not so badly misplace the top of the mirror and the light fixture?  But, since this was a public accommodation, I am guessing it was designed by an architect.  It certainly looked so.  All very current and modern, as I said above.  How does this happen?  Is this an architectural question?  Is it a COD question?  Looking forward to responses.




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Mike Mense FAIA
mmenseArchitect
New York NY
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28.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 2 days ago
Hospitality  bathroom lighting is notoriously  hit and miss in all levels  of  hospitality.  Presumably the  higher end  properties all get the  benefit(?) of design attention whether it  be an architect, interior  designer, or  lighting  designer.  But  you sure  couldn't prove  it by the  results.   Despite the  myriad  protestations from architects about  human factors  in design we seem to be  merely paying lip service to this aspect  of our work.

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Eugene Ely AIA Emeritus
Retired Architect
San Jose, CA
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29.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 14 hours ago
I've been following this discussion off and on, and finally decided to weigh in. It's a good discussion, but one that has been almost completely absent from my professional life. Not sure why that is.

I was particularly struck by two comments, one from Jeff Murray that some of us make money in order to practice architecture (I'd place myself in that camp), and one from Richard Epstein that as often as not we limit our work through our own lack of ambition and/or aspiration. I could not agree more that "the internal limitations we place on ourselves can be as much (or) more significant than external constraints". So stop it! It's hard enough without working against ourselves.

I think most want easy, formulaic answers in lieu of more difficult esoteric discussion. I once had a firm principal tell me that he knew he'd created "great architecture" when someone thanked him for saving steps in their workday. I was shocked. That's not to say that great architecture shouldn't be efficient (or that the light in the bathroom shouldn't be placed in front of the occupant), but both fall under the heading of baseline competence, and neither rise to the level of Architecture.

Regarding "talking vs. drawing schools". Echoing John McLean's assumption that this translates into design & theory vs. construction technology, why does this dichotomy exist? As Mr. McLean points out, the "talking architects" sure seem get stuff built, and some pretty spectacular stuff at that. Is it more correct to divide schools (and firms) into those that embrace design and theory vs. those that don't? Or is someone going to try to convince us that Gehry and Mayne's offices don't understand technology or know how to put things together?

And this all started with a discussion centered around a parking garage. Some suggested that perhaps only the skin of a parking garage could begin to be considered Architecture, but Steve Altheer provided multiple examples of the typology that can easily be discussed in architectural terms. And of course Herzog and de Meuron's garage in Miami was always the elephant in the room for a discussion about parking garages.

Trying to define architecture is always a tricky business. When pressed I turn to Le Corbusier's quote from Vers une architecture that begins "You employ stone, wood and concrete,...", and near the end "By the use of raw materials and starting from conditions more or less utilitarian, you have established certain relationships which have aroused my emotions." I'm sure most are familiar with it but if not its easily searchable.

I'm glad some are trying. I look forward to reading more.

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Joseph German, Architect
Pittsburgh PA
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30.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 3 days ago

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS REGARDING "WHAT IS ARCHITECTURE?"
A concept does not become knowledge until it can repeat success and avoid failure. In architecture, a concept is considered artistic inspiration. Repetition is considered plagiarism. As a consequence, the pursuit of fine art and the fear of plagiarism have led us away from the formation of knowledge that can improve the practice of the entire profession. This will continue as long as fine art is considered to be the answer to the question, "What is architecture?" Only the best is fine art; and fine art is the form, function, and appearance of a complex anatomy. This anatomy is created by an orchestra of technical specialties with a score written, drawn, and conducted by an architect. There are few masterpieces but many compositions. This is architecture, and its greatest strength is a constant search for improvement with logic that always grapples with the unknown. It is the only way to write a score that correlates the performance of an orchestra.

The decisions that set the stage for inspiration are consistent and mathematical. The values chosen determine the shelter capacity of land and the intensity, intrusion, and dominance introduced. These factors can also be measured at existing locations for comparison and evaluation. Architectural form, function, and appearance emerge from these site plan parameters to amplify the quality of life defined at street level. The correlated result symbolizes a culture's current opinions, knowledge, and ability. This is architecture with a language that can elevate its tactical efforts to the strategic level of city design. In other words, architecture is (can be) a tactical and strategic profession that produces shelter strategy for growing populations. It is served by movement, open space, and life support within a Built Domain that must pursue a policy of symbiotic survival.

A logical, consistent mathematical foundation for ensuing design decisions has never eliminated inspiration. It provides a platform of knowledge to justify design decisions that are presently defended with politically vulnerable opinion.



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Walter Hosack
Dublin, OH
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31.  RE: what is architecture

Posted 2 days ago
In a single sentence, architecture is an orchestra of technical specialties led by a composition that is written, drawn, and conducted by an architect.

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Walter Hosack
Dublin, OH
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