Architecture as a field is, in order – to ideate, design, and build. But, as a discipline, architecture is to think and rethink what has been thought of already, to actualize what has been accepted as impossible, and to inspire by reciprocating within the hierarchy of humans and nature itself. Architecture today, or as the trend reasons it to be called ‘Contemporary Architecture’, is the epitome of both, the proposed definition and ‘progressive expectations’.

The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet1
The Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland by Renzo Piano (2005)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet2
The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada by Daniel Libeskind (2007)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet3
The Centre Pompidou-Metz, France by Shigeru Ban (2010))

Contemporary Architecture, at its core, is neither a historically bracketed movement nor a definitive style. It can neither be studied exclusively as a phase nor considered to align itself with a common visual language. Neither does it dismiss ornamentation entirely, nor does it allow aesthetics to dominate its identity. Contemporary Architecture is not Modern Architecture.

Despite being considered a style, contemporary architecture is not a style per se. The inference being that it is subject to each individual and the limits of their creativity, the will to coalesce developing technologies and construction methodologies, the expansive range for abstraction and innovation in and within the ongoing ‘trends’. The implication, hence, being that it is to remodel the prevalent fashion and ideally, conceive the newer kind. In simpler terms, to practice contemporary architecture is to have absolute liberty to try one’s hand at any and every style, arraying over postmodernist to hi-tech to conceptual and expressive forms to even superlatively minimalistic – it is simply the architecture of the 21st century. 

The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet4
Evolution Tower, Moscow by Philip Nikandrov (2014)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet5
Beijing National Stadium, China by Herzog and de Meuron (2008)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet6
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the USA by Tadao Ando (2002)

For a field so expansive and practitioners so experimental, contemporary architecture, in particular, is one to superlatively exploit technological advancement today, and enough to boast the largest expanse of near-impossible forms that surpasses the substandard of the past. 

While several projects are more prevalent for the styles they endorse through the spaces they create and their controversial take on what we call ‘a home’, they also happen to be subject to critique for often losing a connection with the context and sometimes, debated to not fit in entirely, ever so often for the statements they make with their conceptually expressive forms over the otherwise typical residential buildings.

The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet7
The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge in Kentucky, the USA by Daniel Libeskind (2008)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet8
Gasometer in Vienna, renovated and remodeled (2005)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet9
Reflection at Keppel Bay in Singapore by DCA Architects & Daniels Libeskind (2011)

Besides spaces and exclusively about forms, one can easily notice the architect’s creations flirt with the structural integrity and push them to their extremities, which ends up placing them on the spectrum more so farther from the conventional kind. The pivotal gear in this recurring theme to practice unusual forms and atypical facades are the aides that are the ingenious material innovations shining out from every corner of the world. Self-healing concrete, for example, along with ferrocrete and metals like titanium are garnering hopeful prospects for greater developments besides their pre-existing tenets of application; all of which is possible entirely due to the scope created for the same by the advancements in building construction technologies.

The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet10
Portugal Pavilion at Expo, 2010
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet11
Auditorio de Tenerife in Spain by Santiago Calatrava (2003)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet12
Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the USA by Frank Gehry (2003)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet13
Al-Hamra Tower in Kuwait by SOM (2011)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet14
The CCTV Tower in Beijing, China by Rem Koolhas (2012)

Another defining factor of contemporary architecture is the abstraction of the very definition of structural compositions, all to drive the archetypal model of the said building farther away from the typical notions surrounding it. While this rebellious fashion only serves as the greater ground for a showcase of creativity, they may also result in the said building to lose its character, and sadly enough, often getting tagged as just another piece on the ranks of a starchitect’s egotism. But considering how the same has transformed into more of an ‘expectation’ of the architectural body over the years, it is also labeled as a caliber for one to possess, like many starchitects, up and coming firms and several practicing architects do.

The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet15
Selfridges Department Store in Birmingham, England by Future Systems (2003)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet16
Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandrina Egypt by Snohetta (2002)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet17
Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar by Arata Isozaki (2004)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet18
Innovation Tower of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong by Zaha Hadid Architects (2013)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet19
The Port Authority Building in Antwerp, Belgium by Zaha Hadid (2016)
The abstract nature of contemporary architecture - Sheet20
Gateshead Millennium Bridge in England by Wilkinson Eyre (2001)

Despite establishing the irregular nature of contemporary architecture, the ‘style’ is the kind susceptible to debate, and to posit arguments is to build the identity of the same. The statement entailing that contemporary architecture will always be ill-defined because it chooses to be so, it is to fluctuate with the trends and graduate through the urban demands by leaning on the constructional methodologies’ developments. Hence, truly justifying the intangibility of contemporary architecture, which is its experimental nature open to change and quite possibly, being a stepping stone for the creation of a new standard altogether. This standard bears the potential to end the continual architecture movements over the centuries or proceed to be as experimental and more or even alter the existing dynamics of the definition of architecture entirely. 

Albeit, one singular characteristic feature of architecture, be it any style, belonging of any movement, exclusive to any state; one thing remains constant – the eccentric factor that pushes an architect to innovate something new is what motivates the field to develop in itself and by itself. For, what the senses are to experience, abstraction is to architecture. 



A student in the discipline of Architecture, who ardors macabre art and as one with many words to speak, he favors the others alike. He is also a strong believer in the authority of Mother Nature and perhaps, also the kind who romances with the abstraction of the ordinary.

Write A Comment