Trouble with Terminators

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Trouble with Terminators

Why not make buildings today as they once were made? This is actually a really good, really radical question

There is a powerful conceptual link between historicist buildings, on the one hand, and landform buildings on the other, even though that second hand seems attached to someone else’s arm. The pressing cultural desire (like that need to claim the bottom of the world) binding these buildings’ wildly differing means? Both seek to stabilize — to protect, to uphold, to clarify — the experience of the landscapes in which they are sited.

Stabilize suggests the underlying cultural desire better than any other term. As I’ve argued in earlier essays in this series, both the Post-Modern revolution in architecture and most of the After-Modern work that has followed can be understood as an attempt on the part of architecture to favor the primacy of a host landscape rather than the primacy of an invading building in order to protect place — I hate that word, but we’re stuck with it — against Modern place-less-ness. All of the architects competing to resolve this pressing need stake out a method for how a building must be conceived and constituted so it can best serve its landscape. This is what links the explorations of architects like Robert Stern, Allan Greenberg, or Andres Duany (among the more well-known of what is in fact a substantial portion of the design marketplace) to architects like Steven Holl, Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, Antoine Predock, and, of late, Peter Eisenman.

But, as that range of architects suggests, there’s not much agreement about method, only competing strategies occurring across a spectrum from dog to pony (many architects work somewhere in between). The landform strategies are at one extreme, historical simulation — which for years has found its primary expression in the New Urbanists and their offshoots — at the other. Each group gathers information from different aspects of site and context; and each differs in their belief about how architectural form carries landscape-related content. So, which of these approaches is the dog, and which the pony? It’s worth knowing. Scott, after all, froze to death. […]

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