Changing Needs of Architecture

We have been living in the age of Modernism, which has a different set of values and concerns from what we must deal with today. The Modern required the articulation and prominence of movement, the dissolution of materiality, and a clarity in logic. Although these are useful for the current age, they are not the main idea. Current concerns include climate change, equality in structure, and conservation of resources. We do not need to have Modernism disappear, but we must have it evolve. Walls of glass and thin floor and roof plates are not good to conserve energy, nor are they the best way to build. Yes, such construction minimizes the solids and surfaces of a volume, and these moves help the conceptualization of the Modern space.

What would this new age–what will we call it?–have for typical details? I assume thicker walls and specific, minimum openings. I would also assume layers and valences. In addition, why not include re-use of existing structures. This is extremely exciting, and it limits the amount of new construction that is necessary to complete. Each existing project is specific, and the solutions will be different for each. However, we could create some generalizations–the traditional ecological responses are a good, but limited, start–windows toward the north, where possible, vertical louvers to the east and west, and trombe wall and minimal glazing to the south. But, there is more–much more, especially if we want to have architecture evolve.

Say we have the glass box on stilts? How do we retrofit it? Do we retrofit it? Is it better to let a strong building stay within its nature? Or, should most or all buildings adapt? Surely, most buildings will adapt, other than a few prominent projects. Layers of louvers and glazing can allow the architect to fend off and capture heat, as well as affect the appearance of the exterior and interior. The layers create pockets of space and can provide mass or thermal breaks. We should re-study the transition between interior and exterior, where most spaces are a combination of both. Interior to exterior space is a continuum, and a middle space may be confused for either. This allows variation in the temperature, but also the ambience. One problem with the modern world is that it separates and frames nature from the building and its interior. By defining something as an other, there is an alienation, and the interior and exterior will be fully divorced. Whereas, a series of spaces that blends the interior with the exterior will acknowledge and reach out to the other spatial type. By experiencing another condition, there is a familiarity with the other condition, and with this, there is an understanding and empathy. In this way, we can understand and feel the conditions in both the protected and the exposed.

There is much to discuss pertaining to climate change, including the layout of the city, but we should also address equality. How do we make spaces equal? There is the formal possibility at the scale of a room, but there are other opportunities at the scale of a building and a city. First, we should eliminate Euclidean zoning and any artificial planimetric designation on structures and spaces. Of course, the natural requirements, such as topography and features, will need to be addressed in plan, but placing manufactured constraints on a property should be limited to as little as possible. Next, there is the break down of the hierarchy of spaces. There should still be an organization, but can we make living spaces equitable? I don’t believe there is any reason to make all habitations the same, but can we limit the escalation in value of properties by their position in the landscape? Probably not, unless we place most work on the equalizing planes of prairie, forest, and continuous spaces. However, this requires we continue to think of the land and architecture as taking the tabula rasa. What if we can find equality in the reuse of structures. We can make a space that was once seen as poor or a waste and turn it into something desired, simply through desire. Can we make the initial space affordable and provide the initial owners an opportunity to stay in the space or profit from any sale? This may not be the job of architecture, but the job of the developer, real estate agent, and bank. How can we get these parties interested in equality? Reuse, the alchemy that can bring equality. Now, how do we make the reuse affordable, so it makes more sense to renovate and retrofit than build new? Prefabrication, automation, and digital systems are the keys. And with these, we need to be able to define existing conditions, provide a design to update the conditions, document these, and construct the work. How can we automate the existing conditions and design? How can we prefabricate, automate, and digitally define the construction?

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