“Architecture is an expression of values” – Norman Foster
The evolution of architecture over the years has been an outcome of the social, cultural, and technological transformations and advancements. However, these factors, along with architecture, have also contributed to the alteration of the thought processes of the architects and more so their approach. These altered approaches and notions of architects throughout the architectural timeline have produced a palette of diverse styles and designs.
From the ancient architecture which has been discovered, analyzed, and documented, it is evident how the significant architecture then, reflected through its appearance the attributes of its society and corresponded with the distinctive style of a region, culture, and sect. The materials and their application too had a uniformity within the structures of a clime. These factors consequently directed the approaches of the architects and hence the outcomes.
Over the years, these circumstances have transformed and several architects have emerged to have their profound philosophies and approaches which were independent of the norms then and were imbibed thoroughly into their designs. These progressions were supplemented by globalization, technological advancements, and social reforms. Therefore, even though the architects followed a certain architectural style, they could maintain and exhibit a distinctive character in their designs.
One such evident instance has been the ‘modernist style’ which became dominant throughout the world, yet several architects like Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, F.L. Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, etc. advanced to establish their kind of approach and application through their philosophies.
“I sense Light as the giver of all presences and material as spent Light. What is made by Light casts a shadow and the shadow belongs to Light.” – Louis I Kahn
For Kahn, to design space was to evoke a feeling and to develop a character that is intangible and immeasurable. He believed that ‘light’ was a principle which is supplemented by accurate material, and a comprehension of functionality, geometry, scale, and axis to design a structure. He reinterpreted the certainty in architecture and drew inspiration from the ancient architecture of Greece and Egypt. Kahn cautiously interposed these principles into his structures to integrate the structure, such that the structural elements collectively as well as independently stimulate emotions and provoke thoughts. Through all his structures, one could recognize his impeccable insight of the scale and size and the determined application of light and shadow evoking its drama inside the spaces. His appreciation for the basic geometry could be explicitly seen through the facades as well as the plans of his structures.
“The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built.” – F.L. Wright
Similar to Kahn’s affinity with light was Wright’s affinity with nature and the landscape which surrounded the structure. He intended to create human-centric structures with functionality, context, and their harmony being the driving principles. He identified the materials and their precise nature and implemented them thoughtfully into his designs to enhance both, the structure and its vicinity. He drew his inspirations from nature and the aspects that it provided, and repaid them to it through his interventions. For him space was meant to be designed with humans as a primary subject, therefore, his design ideas consisted of spaces not restricted to a cuboidal form and rather were free-flowing and harmonized. He blurred the distinction between the built and the nature to create a unified and symbiotic environment and his structures such as Falling waters, Robie house, Taliesin, Unity Temple, etc exhibited the same.
While F.L. Wright thought of landscape as a fundamental of his design, another modernist architect, Le Corbusier too sought to establish a human-nature relationship however, his approach was distinctive, unusual but suited his idea of functionality and order. He introduced roof gardens as one of his five points of architecture and established it as one of his principles that the world today reminisces.
The above-mentioned architects had their distinctive approaches towards the designing process but their rudiments coincided and were reinforced by their imposition of functionality.
Some architects opposed the idea of modernism and its fundamentals and tried to counter them through different philosophies. However, the emerged philosophies themselves were contradicting and radical.
“The ultimate pleasure of architecture lies in the most forbidden parts of the architectural act, where limits are perverted and prohibitions are transgressed.” – Bernard Tschumi
Tschumi was one of those architects who questioned the existing notions and approaches towards architecture and put forward an unconventional perspective to interpret and address the system. He introduced several principles that were never addressed in architecture earlier such as cross programming, defamiliarization, superimposing, and de-structuring; through his writings, he stimulated a thought process of interpretations which had been done and which could be done. Tschumi’s first renowned public project Parc de la Villette became his experimental work where he implemented these theories of transgression, superimposition, and deconstructivism.
On the contrary, another set of architects like Kenneth Frampton, Peter Zumthor, and Alvar Aalto sought to counter the placelessness of the modern and post-modern styles. They believed that the structure must associate with its context and must reflect its progressive interpretations. They brought forth the approach of critical regionalism and phenomenology through their writings and designs, critiquing how the spaces can be integrated with features of both, the global and local architecture.
Through these contrasting examples, it is determined how the architects throughout their practices could have had corresponding intentions of either following a certain style or countering it. However, what distinguished their outcomes so radically was the formation and application of their philosophies.