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Design and Aesthetics of Architectural Styles


Architecture is more of a civic art than a fine art. An architect derives fame and pleasure from the satisfaction of people who appreciate architecture as a fine art. More importantly, the recognition of architecture as a civic art bestows respect and admiration to the profession while binding together the public into an opinionated community which encourages its members to modify their nature to perfection. The two cultures of fine art and civic art act together in exhibiting buildings and building cities by the former shunning tradition and the latter integrating architecture into tradition. Although these two cultures seem to oppose one another, they very well allow for dynamism in the profession. They present to scenarios; the former is modern while the latter is the other modern.

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Social obligations

In the society, these two facets of architecture have played complementary roles for a long time. Modernism has presented the field of architecture with fashion (John, 1989, P12). Unfortunately, in the recent past, only a small fraction of its concepts and designs has been implemented this is primarily because the contemporary designs are more inclined to fashion rather than to popularity (Melzer and Zinman, 1999, P 6). This has denied the society a chance to savour some of the innovative and fashionable designs that modernism has to offer. These incredible designs have remained a preserve of the elite by holding their own against the society.

After World War I, central Europe modernist architects had social programs where architectural designs were discussed in the gatherings thus allowing social participation. Sadly, today all this appears to have been totally forgotten or just completely disregarded (John and Sandra, 2008, P 8). Today, modernist’s architecture produces bold designs for cultural buildings, high-end commercial buildings, and sophisticated apartments while modernism derives less appealing designs for public structures that are away from the urban centres and cities (Buivydas, 1998, P 20). The general public only access and appreciate these magnificent designs only when shopping and latter on retire to their shabby abodes on the outskirts of the city (William, 1999).

The similarity of architecture and urbanism and their contribution to the good of the society may not be understood by the architects who practice the other modern. However, we must realize that the past and political theory provides an unrivalled map into the mysterious future as we strive to accustom our actions through innovation and invention that will assist us to face new challenges. Our understanding and appreciation of the past propels us into the future (Michael 1998, P 13).

It is disturbing how architecture that is so contradictory of its fundamental founding principles continues to exist in every sphere of our society not to mention its existence in our academic institutions. This may be attributable to our technological society where how things are done is defined not by need but by technique. This approach pegs more importance on efficiency and effectiveness than the human prosperity traditionally. This system completely disregards human concern in pursuit of efficiency (Jacques, 1965, P 4). As a result, architects are inclined to concentrate on the moment without extending into time and place.

Articulation and advocacy of ethical is a critical issue which has been of great concern in the recent past. As a result, a lot of emphasis has been laid in the development and interpretation of ethical conduct of architects whose values originate from social morals, universal business practice, and legal frameworks. The social aspect plays a monumental role in the formulation of the ethical code of conduct of architects while putting into consideration the existing legal systems. Individual rights are safeguarded by the joint acknowledgement of this legal structure. The law and written agreements outline contractual and other legal responsibilities of the involved parties. However, it is difficult to enforce these responsibilities when their outcome is pegged to a specific profession. Agencies which regulate the professionalism of architects are usually caught in a tight spot due to existence of many social conventions (Rondanini, 1981). Also, existence of different moral beliefs which may be in form of widely accepted principles. These principles sometimes are out of our legal framework due to their deficiency in consensus and or at times, they act as a source of conflict in opinions.

Architecture can be considered as a fine art as wells a civic art. An architect is obliged to design a structure that is appealing to the society while honoring the art of architecture (David, 1981). The European countries have in the recent past involved the public in the development of their surroundings. The public has a right to be protected from environmental pollution and other hazardous effects that may arise as a result of a poor architectural design. Therefore, any architect worth his salt must consider the consequences of his work to the public. He must be willing to promote his profession by mentoring students who have a dream of becoming architects. That notwithstanding, he must promote educational measures and provide information to trainees in the field in which he practices. Mentorship is a sure way of expanding the field of architecture by allowing room for new school of thought in the field thus promoting modernization of architecture.

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The society provides the environment under which architects practice, therefore, architects are obliged to reciprocate this privilege by honest to their clients. An architect must not undertake a project if he is not sufficiently capable of sufficiently and professionally completing the project (Anthony, 1980, P 5).It is important to note that even if an architect is qualified and has the means to undertake the project at his disposal, he cannot work on it if he is not prepared for the challenge. This obligation is particularly important in safeguarding the integrity of the profession since unpreparedness is a perfect for failure. The society demands complete disclosure of the architect’s ability to professionally complete a project failure to which may cause irreversible damage to the integrity of the concerned architect.

Architectural styles have become broken since the seventies giving rise to various styles such as the contemporary, neo-modernists and so on. Contemporary architecture is not bound on traditions held dear in the past and may be theoretically compared to modernist architecture. It is not fitting to just say that contemporary architecture is anti-vernacular; as a matter of fact it is influential and innovative by endeavouring to be visionary and inspirational (Paul 1965, P 5). Contemporary architecture often disregards the social norms in its attempt to push technology beyond the realm of development. Contemporary architecture is concerned and too much preoccupied with innovation to the extent of forgetting the effects of the innovation to the general public (José, 1956, P13). An architect in today’s society has been given numerous definitions and has been subdivided into many categories. An architect with radical innovation in spatial organization otherwise known as avant-garde is the role model of all architects. However, the avant-garde is receiving unfair competition from commercial architects whose sole objective is to make profit thus undercutting the image of the architecture profession. While the avant-garde is concerned with producing small works of architectural brilliance, the mainstream architects are busy ignoring social and aesthetical needs. Although this may somewhat create a divide in the architectural profession, it may be tapped to bring out a sense of division of labor which promotes socio-economic growth. Innovation is an all-important aspect of architecture since renaissance. Recognition of architecture is based on deep-seated innovation and arguments mainly comprised of theories. Structures are designed by relying on tested solutions that are often taken for granted, yet these solutions were put forth and tested by past architects. Professionals in the field of architecture often fail to acknowledge the work done by their counterparts an instead engage themselves in philosophical arguments about who is better than the other. In so doing they forget to engage the society which has provided the environment to practice their trade. Great architecture calls for a combined growth of architectural theory and social progress (Bernd, 2003, P 3).

For one to practice in the field of architecture and become successful in integrating the society it depends on whether one is interested in the avant-garde or mainstream practice. Modernism in architecture was expected to subscribe traditional architecture to history. Yet, the other modern practice continued existence and increased energy has contradicted that expectation. The other modern has shown a tremendous novelty by pleasuring mature with beauty. The relationship between beauty and justice is ignored since aesthetics have been captured by sensationalism. It is worth noting that beauty is one of the values that are held by tradition hence justifying the society’s quest for beauty. Contemporary architecture represents and serves the technological society. The modern architect pays a lot of attention to design which is the mother of architecture, sculpture and painting which originates from intellect. All ideas in nature are as a result of design.

Painting and architecture were not considered by Vitruvius to share similar values. The same goes for Leon Battista Alberti who wrote on the arts of architecture, sculpture and painting. This implies that the three arts are designs in their own right which convey meaning to those who understand them. They are distinct from each other than they are similar regardless of their common purpose to convey meaning. An architect produces what was not existence by drawing inspiration from what is in existence. Alberti perceives an architect and a painter as different because an architect can not follow the technique of a painter (Rykwert, and Travenor 1988, P 12).

Architect formulates designs which form part of a bigger design according to Alberti. An architect transforms nature to culture through his art. A building is a composition of various components which are put together by man for the service of mankind. On a larger scale, buildings themselves are part of a bigger design that makes up cities (Mumford, 1938). Renaissance puts it rightly that men honor a successful artist by showering with praise and God offers him glory conferred through grace for accomplishing his obligation o the public and to God.

Vasari on the other hand does not seek to associate architecture and God but he stresses the place of architecture among other arts and design. He emphasizes that the artist’s genius is demonstrated his invention since the values of architecture are intellect and related to flight of the imagination and opinion (Milanesi, 1973). Today’s architectural profligacy was accidentally licensed by Vasari. However, architecture remained adherent to the rules with architects sticking to the rules as much as possible. Unfortunately, this enlivened adherence to the rules was short lived because they were soon undermined by enlightenment and dismissed by idealism and traditional forms filled the vacuum Modernism took this lawlessness a step further by encouraging invention by proclaiming the never seen before approach as the route to popularity. Everyone took his own route to fame which were copied by lesser architects. Vitruvius three conditions of building provided a launch pad. Frank Gehry sought to delight, Rem Koolhass worked with commodity while Lord Foster concentrated on firmness. All of these approaches seek to distance themselves from tradition and concentrate more on invention in a bid to secure a greater acclamation of the building and its designer (Le Corbusier, 1985).

The design process is part of a process in the completion of a building. The process is carried out in a sequential manner with each step being undertaken by people from different professions to ensure efficient completion of the design process. Each step has a time, resource and monetary allocation sufficient to undertake the activities in that step. The architect has no business beyond putting his design into lines. Starchitects are famed for their difficulty to work with and the technological society discourages clients from contracting them. Nonetheless, they are the masterminds of current commercial buildings architectural design. Modernism is for the belief that art can not be learned. In 1937, Walter Gropius replaced the teachable Beaux Arts system with Bauhaus system. The student was made to disregard his previous knowledge of the world in a systematic manner and was he was taught to trust his instincts. However, this system was later abandoned after it was rendered irrelevant although there re still some schools which still employ Bauhaus principles. Students in many schools are simply taught to take up current fashions. However, it is worth noting that schools whose programs are worth their salt attempt to teach what people consider can not be taught. This approach allows the students to discover things on their own by seeking novelty at all costs and applying it to architecture (George and Richard, 1991). Well balanced academic curriculums educate young architects to thrive outside the society by satisfying the individual’s thirst for personal expression and belief.

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The other modern architects approach their work differently to the degree that the prevailing building culture permits. The method of these architects is by development of new buildings from old ones through the combination and modification of the conventional components. This method was referred to as collocation by Alberti which is now called composition. This method follows the approach of inventing new forms like in the design process. However, the so called new forms are just a modification of versions of conventional compositions. This implies that the two methods entail composing and inventing in distinct extents and to different ends. While the modernist strives to present the society with something it has never seen before, the other modern is concerned with showing us a new version of familiar architecture. This standpoint is interesting as one is concerned in voiding tradition while the other attempts to renew it.

The design process of the other modern follows similar discrete steps as those of the modernist’s approach each following the other into a flow chart of activities. But the other modern’s method of composition requires flexibility where each step is subject to revision if the following steps necessitate it. In this method, although the design process comes before implementation, it does not end when the construction of the project begins. Unfortunately, this approach is not efficient and effective in the technological society’s standards. This approach calls for the involvement and collaboration of the architects, clients and contractors in an association in which the buck stops with the architect. The other modern’s principles are deep rooted and more established than modernism’s or the technological society’s expectations (Paul, 2010, P 6). The other modern involve the engagement of architecture, commitment to the common good as well as urbanism. This is the ultimate answer for technique a privilege that the other modern does not realize (Fiske, 1928). This approach however can be commended for favoring classical antiques by embracing simplicity and unity of form. The other modern must not relax and enjoy this newly found admiration which could quickly fade in a world where technology and globalization are rife. It must carry on its good work by using technology to resurrect traditional form ensuring that this admirable form of art does not become a thing of the past. In fact, the society has been in the recent past embracing traditional architecture evidenced by growing demand of traditional buildings. Sadly, clients are often short changed owing to their inability to distinguish the good from the less good. This has rendered them prey to architects who are not competent to provide such classical designs.

The formal sphere is however not the greatest urgency, civic one is. The modern has overlooked traditional buildings owing to its insufficient regard to the common good in the renovation and rehabilitation of cities. New urbanists have assumed the duty of maintaining the cities without regarding the antiquity of the classical designs. They have transformed cities to new entities completely different from the past. This new urbanist is preoccupied with seeking justice on economic issues thus alienating architects in their quest for an all inclusive justice that seeks to endow the society with good living standards.

The prevailing circumstances may render such ambitions impracticable. But it is common knowledge that al men are equal a notion that must be carried even into the future generations. We are therefore encouraged by tradition to strive for a better future that allows engagement of the common public and the elite. We must appreciate all forms of goodness and beauty endowing honor and admiration on art of architecture. Architects must realize that the discipline of architecture relies on cultural buildings. Therefore, it is an obligation of architects to conserve such buildings in the society by sustaining the works of past architects from whose work they draw their inspiration. This does not mean to say that they should forget innovation, rather it stresses that innovative designs should not be regarded as superior to traditional designs.


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