Monday, January 03, 2005

Andrés Duany on the problems of Contemporary Architecture

John Massengale posts an interesting brief commentary by architect Andrés Duany:

“The problem inherent in the contemporary architectural situation is not that it is modern, but that it is avant garde. The relentless pursuit of the unprecedented undermines two essential roles of architecture: the collective endeavor that is required for an urbanism; and the establishment of a transmissible body of knowledge....Ours must be a deeply serious pursuit of an ethical architecture engaged in the important issues that confront our society."

I am hesitant to crtiticize Duany too much since I am not sure of the particular context of his remarks. I do, however, agree wholeheartedly with his support for "urbanism" as a "collective" endeavor.

The assumption guiding this critique is the fact that so much of the suburban built environment is comprised of an aggregation of disparate elements that are planned and developed without regard to the local climate, landscape, neighboring buildings, or environment. The central credo of the New Urbanism is to reverse this trend.

This brings me to one of the persisting questions surrounding the efficacy of the New Urbanism--which is not entirely their fault. Namely, how can we engage in urbanism as a collective effort when our current market-based system of metropolitan development is structurally inimical to (certain types of) collective planning? Given the power of the real estate and development industries at local levels (especially suburban), the obstacles seem exceedingly daunting to overcome.

Maybe Duany's "transferable body of knowledge" could provide the germ of change: a reprofessionalization of architecture that privileges ethics over sheer pursuit of profit.

(Linked to Outside the Beltway)