While reading other responses to Architecture School, i stumbled upon the conversation at Veritas et Venustas and felt compelled to add my 28 cents. I have reprinted my response below. As a Tulane School of Architecture alumnus (’05) I feel a need to chime in with a few points. 1) There was, and i assume still is, an underlying conflict in the school and architecture as a whole. There are those modernist professors who put an emphasis on partis and design over neighborhood scale and character and they are continually in conflict with the preservationists/critical regionalists who emphasis context and character over grand design strategy. This studio would have been better suited being under the purview of a non-modernist professor, whose emphasis would have been on neighborhood development instead of personal architectural statements. 2) The problem with the existing houses and the neighborhood’s reaction is multifaceted. There is a severe air of distrust in New Orleans between the poor black neighborhoods and the rich (mostly) white gentry for very good reasons. The horrendous housing projects that were built during urban renewal were dehumanizing spaces (many not much better than stacked slave cabins), the construction of which allowed for the forced [...]
Whether you know it by name or not, most of America has at one time or another come into contact with New Urbanism. This anti-modernist anti-sprawl post-modern offshoot which has been with us for almost 30 years, since the development of Seaside, Florida in 1980 held a conference in Old Town Alexandria, VA. If you understood the nature of New Urbanism, the fact that their conference was being held in one of the oldest downtowns in virginia is quite the irony.
New Urbanism stands for the creation of artificial suburban (and sometimes urban) downtowns and mixed use communities, something, which like the path to hell, is paved with good intentions. The problem I have always had with the New Urbanist movement is its non-organic nature. Communities get branded before they are built; house styles and strict zoning rules are pre-planned and approved by designers preventing any straying from the ideal image from entering the perfect new (sub)urban town. They also stand in direct opposition to Modernism; instead of drawing on both the strengths and weaknesses of modernism, they look to its failures and piece together historical pastiche architecture in an attempt to meet the needs of the present. Which is ironic, considering that modernism’s creed was to disregard all architecture that came before it to re-discover the natural forms of building.
Yanko Design has an interesting article which they referenced from Dezeen about Shigeru Ban’s paper Tea House installation being put up for auction. Now as much as I’d love to own this piece of architecture, I know that I would never be able to afford it. On the otherhand, I can admire it and learn from it. Ban’s use of paper has been his recent ongoing material de-mode. Paper as a building method is an interesting, though not intuitive, choice. There are some fundamental problems that come with paper; first, structural stability can be compromised by water, second, (non-coated) paper is very difficult to clean, and third, the presence of sunlight and air can cause acid-rich paper to deteriorate overtime. All of this non-withstanding amazing things have been created from paper; Frank Gehry’s famous series of chairs, Ban’s recent work with paper tubes, as well as recent pieces at DWR and other retailers. But the paper design that strikes the most similarity to the Paper Tea House is some of the recent office furniture from MUJI. They have the same kraft paper color and texture, as well as the crisp almost modern edges. Paper as an architectural and design material [...]
a456 has a very interesting post about the lack of theory and prevalence of study in contemporary architecture (Click here for the article). This speaks to me because I feel that critical theory has left the world of architectural design and moved into its own sphere of academic theory. How often in school did we start a project by analyzing the site, environment, and urban anthropological records as compared to developing a theory of place and setting idealized goals and a grammar of forms? The first was much more common than the latter. In fact we were always taught to analyze and then use the analysis to develop forms. The only time theory made its way into our curriculum was in a lecture setting where we “learned” about contemporary architectural thought through reading lectures and treatises, not design. This translates to the practice of architecture as well. Projects are designed to fulfill a function, and not argue a thesis. While flights of academic fancy are not feasible in a client driven situation, I am hard pressed to think of many non-avant garde/magazine architecture firms that strategize an idea of a building instead of a program schema. I think that architecture [...]