It seems that time and time again, as I get hit by images of new buildings in magazines, blogs, websites, etc., the finest architecture being built over the last ten years or so is what I would call critical regionalism. Taking a cue from Kenneth Frampton’s essay of the same name from 1979 and the work of Tzonis and Lefaivre, these are buildings that allow the immediate topography, region and culture to influence the design more than a formal or theoretical premise.
These buildings are undeniably Modern, but also local, celebrating the particulars of time and place. They often partake of a kind of vernacular architecture (which hopefully, is also formed by a specific climate, availability of materials, etc), but, to use Frampton’s term, are also “disjunctive”, clearly demonstrating a connection with, a brief ancestry of, Modernism.
For as thrilling and as exciting as some new tower in Dubai or Chicago might be, once you leave the confines of a large, cosmopolitan city, the influence of the land, people and place, should probably play an ever-increasing role in the making of a building.
I think there are clients and patrons who don’t want to associate with their immediate locale, but rather are looking to say something about their connection and association with an international, cosmopolitan society, eschewing any regionalist influences.
It is an old adage in architecture that bad sites make for good architecture. It may be that school-trained architects working in more remote areas, feel like their sites are already ‘challenged’, in that they are not in the glossy capitals of architecture. However, the architects that I have met and worked with in smaller cities, towns and the country, have a remarkable interest in, and respect for, the local climate, traditions, materials and building history of their chosen place. It is more likely, that in fact, the slightly generic nature of the buildings in the increasingly generic international cities drove those architects away and into the arms of places and people slightly more humble, certainly more interesting.
so, when you hear about everyone buying local and supporting local farmers, think about why that is. Think beyond the rationale of sustainability and the transport of goods and materials.
Think of what the the local farmer or artisan brings to their work, and the rejection of the generic goods produced faraway and distributed by Walmarts and McDonalds and SOM.