I’m not good at nifty titles. Talia, wanna make a pun?

Here’s a link to a rather depressing, if intriguing article.


…and for those who don’t particularly want to read the entire thing at the moment, or don’t like click through links, the leading picture and its caption sum it up decently.

Support for ‘bereaved’ architects

A support group has been set up to help architects through the "trauma" of seeing one of their creations demolished in their own lifetime.

A support group has been set up to help architects through the "trauma" of seeing one of their creations demolished in their own lifetime.

It seems to me that one of the most appealing aspects of architecture in general is the idea that something we design, have a hand in making, has the ability to influence people, even after we’re gone (die, or have just moved on to the next project), and even if most people aren’t really aware of how something affects them. As John Glenday of the Rubble Club says, “People often don’t notice architecture until it is gone, and they wake up one morning to find a big hole where there was once a building.”

For the moment, let’s set aside the economic and environmental issues inherent in tearing down structures so soon after they are built. According to the article, 9/10 times there was nothing structurally wrong with the buildings other than the fact they had simply gone out of fashion. Fashion. ‘Trendiness’ is in general something I don’t like (mostly because of what I see as rampant insincerity…if you want a real rant I can talk about that forever), and it may slowly be making most architecture/structures/vague design efforts too temporary to be worth the investment of time and effort otherwise necessary, and at the same time to permanent to be done shoddily. We won’t be able to pass on historic landmarks or shared experiences if we never let things stand long enough to develop that kind of history.

It sounds big headed when I try to put it into words, but I find architecture interesting because it offers the opportunity to ‘think creatively’ (which is clichéd, but after a mindless office job infinitely valuable), to help create something instead of just moving information around in a computer, and the chance to make some sort of a lasting impression on my surroundings, even if at the end of the day I’m the only one who knows what I did. I want to be able to look at a building, or just a nifty little awning, someday, and know that I helped it happen. If the people in charge of such things continue to tear down relatively recent structures, for no other reason than that they aren’t “in fashion” anymore, the lack of lasting influences will leave us culturally poorer.

Then there’s the issue of being environmentally and fiscally responsible with public spending. If officials want to spend our money razing the area and starting from scratch to create the trendiest LEED platinum building because it’s easier, it shouldn’t be that difficult to take a glance at the economy and at least think about working with what already exists, especially if it’s working.

I’m not saying replacing old building that are in a shambles with newer more efficient structures is bad, it just seems a waste of materials, time, and design effort to tear down a well designed/executed structure because the crown molding is ‘so 2005.’

And yes. I felt perfectly comfortable oversimplifying certain issues so that I could make my point. But since it was on purpose and for a good reason, how bout some comments about what everyone else thinks about this phenomenon.

~Becky Peterkin


7 Responses to “I’m not good at nifty titles. Talia, wanna make a pun?”

  1. 1 Mike
    2009/06/11 at 3:13 pm

    I am generally shocked to see such a quick turnaround of that first example from the finishing of the construction to the tear down within the year! Its absurd, and wasteful. This article was surprising as I had never really given thought to the deconstruction of a building of my design, and it makes me wonder: what if, as an architect, we accommodate these changes?
    Temporary architecture, and there are a number of examples of this dating back to the great exhibitions, one I remember from my studies is the Crystal Palace, a temporary “installation” for the Great Exhibition of 1851, displaying the new innovation of glass and cast-iron. The Eiffel tower was intended to be temporary, but had a change in fate.
    So while I do agree that the sheer amount of energy/time/money/resources invested in the creation of a structure, and inversely the amount to take it down, greatly outweighs the ever changing sensibilities of what’s fresh (hip, if you will). But, what if in our design, or at least in our thoughts, we take into account the life of the building, and its death. And this has a number of implications, some of which are already being used. Such as modular design and construction. By having pieces that can be snapped into place and just as easily taken out, that would reduce waste, even when the building is “destroyed” and the pieces could still be utilized in another way.
    Kind of tangential, but the focus of that article raised an interesting problem with the post-construction phase of architecture, something I have not really looked into until now. Great post.

  2. 2 Kai Gutschow
    2009/06/12 at 2:11 am

    An intersting post… I had a few responses, that grew long enough to make a new post, I felt…

  3. 3 Liza
    2009/06/12 at 9:56 am

    There is a documentary about industrial design that discusses the same issue. In “Objectified”, around a dozen of industrial designers were asked what makes good design.

    One designer said that sustainable design is often thought of as being “recyclable” or “biodegradable”. He argued that sustainable design also meant timeless design, sometime that is classy, sensible and won’t go out of fashion in a week or in a year.


  4. 4 Danny Burdzy
    2009/06/12 at 7:50 pm

    Just a comment on Becky’s thoughts regarding our job as creators. One of my friends at CMU has repeatedly told me he is extremely jealous of architects and other fields intended to create. He tells me, “I can never make anything and never have anything to show for my work. I can only be like ‘here’s this piece of paper I put a spreadsheet on.'”

  5. 2009/06/12 at 9:15 pm

    And yet, Kai’s post brings up a good question: are we creating something? or are we providing a service?

    Or are we just presenting an idea? Is the building architecture, or are the drawings architecture? Can they both be? Or are neither of them architecture? Can words be architecture? Is an idea, on its own, architecture?

    Yes, we can put together a clean and impressive portfolio, but usually, we jump at the opportunity to explain what it is they’re looking at.

    The idea is ours, but the product of the idea is not (built by someone else, bought by someone else, disposed of by someone else).

  6. 6 Danny Burdzy
    2009/06/13 at 12:27 am

    Well said, Talia

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