Pierre Auguste Renoir once said, “The modern architect is, generally speaking, art’s greatest enemy”. The architecture of the 21st century is termed contemporary architecture, where no specific style is dominant and a blend of various styles from previous architecture eras are ideated. We see large concrete structures and sustainable structures- a massive contrast, coexisting in almost every part of the world. The architecture of various styles is being put together without considering the impact it has on the surrounding context, aesthetic or function.
The architecture of a place defines a place, a time period, a lifestyle. It captures a place’s story and has its history written all over the walls of its architecture. Architecture defines an era, looking at the architecture of today we can conclude that it is either extremely random or architects now have the freedom to design as per their likes without being confined by any current trend.
For example, the majority of buildings belonging to the Classical period have various column orders; Byzantine introduced domed roofs; pointed arches, flying buttresses and ribbed vaults dominated the Gothic period; the Arts and Crafts movement ruled over Art Nouveau. All these periods have similar characteristics, which one cannot do with the architecture of the 21st century, yet somehow every city across the globe is starting to look alike.
Technology and architecture
In the case of technology, we have come very far but in the case of creativity, we are going backwards. Architecture today is benefiting from technology but is losing its essence in the process. Structures are built with high levels of technology, made by an engineer, and not designed based on the understanding of space. The building is coming to life because of its advanced technology and not because of its architectural elements- the elements that gave all previous construction its character.
Technology being a boon or a bane is an ongoing debate, but the use of technology is curbing an architect’s creative thinking process. With the use of technology, it is possible to create the unthinkable but the unthinkable is accompanied by a series of problems, problems that have solutions that can be derived from architecture and technology. By taking the help of technology to solve these problems, the building takes a step back as the same problem could have been solved architecturally. If one takes away the technical aspect from the building, it will end up being a pile of material incapable of creating an experience for the user.
Quoting Daniel Libeskind, “Architecture is not based on concrete and steel and the elements of the soil. It is based on wonder.” Today we lack wonder. In the name of inspiration, elements from various existing structures are being ripped off and stitched into one new structure. The architect’s uniqueness, signature element or personal style is not reflected in their designs, and their designs aren’t really theirs but are pieces of multiple structures put together to create an image.
Other factors impacting creativity
In the process of chasing money, fame and multiple projects, the amount of time spent on each project decreases resulting in generic, lifeless designs for everyday architecture. There is no time to experiment, to create something new, due to which architects are playing it safe, functionally, and are not thinking creatively. Another factor leading to the decline of creativity is the lack of space and resources, and the will of the client to take a risk. The art in architecture is slowly getting buried and similar designs are produced.
Taking an example of two different apartment buildings, similar plans are followed for most 2 or 3 BHK units—foyer, living room, a corridor leading to the master bedroom, with the kitchen and other bedrooms on either side of the corridor—when there are hundreds of ways to design it. Every architect perceives a space differently, has a vision of the experience they wish to create but end up implementing the same design used in the adjacent building. In doing so, our ability to think differently and our voice are unheard through the buildings we create.
As Tadao Ando said, “I like ruins because what remains is not the total design, but the clarity of thought, the naked structure, the spirit of the thing.”
The ‘spirit’ in today’s architecture is fading and can be replenished only when we use our own ideas. Buildings today have no story and most ‘modern’ designs are not in the reach of the common public. There will be one house built differently and a hundred photocopied units. The architecture of a city is for all its residents, not for one person, and everyone deserves to experience the wonders an architect can create.
Architects are born with the ability to envision and create life on empty lands, a talent so rare. The whole world is in the hands of architects, who can create a living hell or improve the quality of life. There is so much power and potential an architect possesses. The magic in their minds can be translated into built form for everyone to see and experience, magic that isn’t just an illusion but is reality. Each architect is gifted with the ability to create and leave a mark of their innovation for the times to come, and this innovation should not be masked behind generic, copied designs which completely undermine the true potential of an architect.
Green, S. (n.d.). Top 101 Exceptionally Badass Quotes About Architecture and Design From Legends.