Pat 1

What Is ‘Architectural Identity’? Part I

2020 Olympic Stadium final proposal by Zaha Hadid © ZHA

 

Architecture has always been about form as well as function. When most people think of architecture it is the way it takes form that comes to mind first. Those that leave a lasting impression are usually crazy bold, sustainably creative or culturally engaging. The latest unveiling of the proposed Summer Olympics 2020 stadia is a good example of such an arguably flamboyantly daring design. But despite its proposal scheme and possible advantages, many people, both within the general public and the architectural industry, find the building quite abruptly ‘misplaced’. Some believe that the design doesn’t co-exist well with the existing city landscape, like it belongs in an alternate universe or just seems to be too grandeur and flashy. The Independent reports that the building is already being scaled down because the scale & the cost is too expensive,  the cost originating at 300 billion yen (£1.9bn).  Perhaps the design is somewhat ‘too much’, in the respect that some believe it’s trying too hard to be something spectacular, something timeless, something iconic. Which brings up the question, is architecture facing an identity crisis? Well that’s too broad of a question so let’s narrow it down a little first, how do you define architectural identity?

Identity is based on how someone or something communicates, how it ‘speaks’.  There are a few main categories of which architectural identity could be classed under; aesthetics, function, historical & urban context, human impact and representation.

Today’s post will briefly look at aesthetics, namely how a building looks can instantly grab a passing citizen’s attention. Whether the building looks garish or sophisticated, provocative or wacky, how it looks is what makes the first impression. There are so many types of architectural styles and tastes today that have evolved from millennia before. How a building looks doesn’t matter to some people, but it is an equally relevant as how a building works. Looks are important (arguably) after all right? But taste and styles are subjective, and like Hadid’s proposal, is a good example. With its large sweeping curves and its intergalactic presence and its frozen fluidity, you’ll either love it or hate it.

How a building looks visually is one of the primary forms of communication, so naturally how a building may look, and how it is perceived, will determined how it is represented. Like how we may dress in the latest fashion trends or buy the latest model car, architecture is also driven by visual perception. Some may say that it’s trivial; some will argue it’s paramount. Frankly, it can go either way, but how a building may look is what catches a lot of people’s attention in the first place. It’s about perceived perception. Architecture is a design-based craft after all. Looks can be just as important as a building’s personality and performance.

Other varied examples include the theatrical abstract; titanium clad Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the sleek, sophisticated minimalism of the Barcelona Pavilion, the organic-like form of L’Hemisfèric and the intelligent, imprinted facade of the Brandenburg Technical University library.

 

guggenheim-portrait
Picture source: http://blog.illumind.com

Name: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao,

Location: Bilbao, Spain

Architect: Frank Gehry

Date: 1977

 

800px-The_Barcelona_Pavilion,_Barcelona,_2010
Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Name: Barcelona Pavilion

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Architect: Mies van der Rohe,

Date: Originally built in 1929, rebuilt 1986

 

Hemispheric_-_Valencia,_Spain_-_Jan_2007
Picture source: http://upload.wikimedia.org

Name: L’Hemisfèric

Location: Valencia, Spain

Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Date: 1996-1998

 

174
Picture source: http://roman-roehrig.de/images/174.jpg

Name: Brandenburg Technical University Library

Location: Cottbus, Germany

Architects: Herzog & de Meuron

Date: 2005

 

 

The next follow-up post to this “architectural identity” series will be focusing on function;

Synopsis: Many believe and follow the infamous quote by architect Louis Sullivan; “Form follows function”. He spoke on how a building looks should be secondary to how a building worked. Architectural function can bring another dimension to the building’s overall identity, sometimes even being the primary source of the building’s identity.