By: Aaron Neal
The past versus the future; can society and architecture rely solely on one? The past can be an influence in architecture in the form of tradition. How this tradition controls the way we step forward in a given society can easily be seen. In architecture one can easily see how the tradition of a culture is incorporated into designs such as in the structural systems used or the basic building form. The past sets in place a list of guidelines to adhere too when designing to the vernacular. Frampton, by quoting Hamilton Harwell Harris, alludes that by following the past can sometimes become restrictive. It can be quite easy to see in our culture how the regional design standards become more of a set back then a guideline. In historic zones, design is very limited with the mindset to preserve the nature of that given district. In many ways I feel like this hampers the development of the city or culture. While I agree that respect should be given to these districts, I feel like if nothing new ever changes that area then it will eventually die.
Likewise, culture can look forward. The future always seems grand with its new technologies that promise to change life how we know it. Especially in present times when new inventions happen every day and the connected nature of culture seems to advance at an exponential rate. With these advancements, society has become accustomed to expecting the future to be incorporated in everything. This can be seen in architecture with the inclusion of green buildings. The top buildings people talk about are made smart so that they adapt and react to the environment. In some respects these inventions are a marvel and allow for design to develop and grow, but they can also become a hindrance to design as well. If technology allows for a building to take any form and have no consequence, then what shapes the design? Frampton refers to this method of design as “placelessness”. This issue is just one of many that can come from over reliance on modern ways.
What then could be the steps to rightly move forward in architecture and as a society? Both the past and the future are important, but by themselves lead to stilted growth. As noted by Kashikar, the key is to not stare into the past, nor to dream into the future. Instead, we should be taking note of the present. This way of looking seems the most appropriate to me in my design work. One must research and respect the traditions in a given region or building typology, but they also need to be pushing forward with today’s technology to most efficiently develop said region. By mixing both and dealing with what is in the present the designer allows for growth that is effective and relatable. Frampton agrees with this ideology by bringing up the Bagsvaerd Church. By mixing the new technologies and the feeling of the vaulted ceiling, the spaces is progressive while still being relatable. While this is an older project, the notions can be carried through to today’s architecture. New methods for building such as prefabrication can still make for regionalistic architecture. One such building, KieranTimberlake’s Loblolly House, is a perfect example of how a building can use new technologies while still relating to the context and culture that it is located in. The prefabricated nature of the house is push towards the possibilities of the future, but the designers still treated the design as a normal project that responded to the surrounding Loblolly Trees and the bay on which it resides. In my mind that perfect example of how to combine the past and the future into a present day design. I hope that as a designer that I can do likewise with my designs to help push my community on an appropriate path.