Comment 66996

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted July 27, 2011 at 17:43:19

Our ability to make sense of architecture is dependent on our ability to develop meaning.

In an age when life itself has become fleeting and meaningless, we develop an apathetic value system with our surroundings. We lose our sense of meaning in this memory vortex of transience.

Vernacular architecture - an architecture born of an impulse to build – and not design, offers us an escape from this memory vortex. We regain our sense of balance in the universe upon confronting vernacular built-form. We even regain our ability to read architecture across cultural and stylistic boundaries of time.

Vernacular built-form does not call out for attention to its origin, its designer, its premise to build. Its transcendental qualities grip us and pull us out of the memory vortex. In attempts to capture this emotional rush, we ascribe to this experience, words such as: historical, heritage, or even the indescribable - beautiful.

Some of us even strip the plaster from the walls of such buildings, to expose the bricks - a manifestation of our desire to reconnect with the vernacular – that faceless, nameless brick-layer.

This is what gives us that sense of meaning, that sense of timelessness. A polar opposite of that sense of meaninglessness which we carry in contemporary times.

The genius of most older buildings built prior to the advent of styles and mannerisms, and even those neatly cataloged under early modernism, art nouveau or the art-deco categories – is in their ability to facilitate transcendence of built-form.

Architecture exists only in that transcendence, hence its temporality. The rest is about design, styles, stones, bricks and mortar and aesthetic positions.

Our contemporary buildings are premised on design, and a programmed impulse to call attention to itself and its design intent. Conceived as an object, it remains an object awaiting the passage of time in the hope for meaning to evolve.

In most cases the wait is futile, as no such meaning will ever evolve over time, as these designs are trapped in the circularity of their style, and aesthetic cracks and faults begin to appear way before time in its infinite mercy is able to shroud the original lack of premise, with an aura of age.

We destroyed much of our vernacular built-form, so our anxiousness to save anything and everything is understandable. But what often remains is just begging time to give it a meaning.

Like the well designed colorful advertisements in magazines from the seventies which appear dated and yellowed awaiting knighthood, many of our modern buildings are caught in a memory vortex.

For those who seek to preserve such buildings, a radical solution for the BOE building paradox would be to have the Board of Ed dismantle it in its entirety, and have it rebuild at their new location. But given the nature of its structure, that may not be entirely possible.

A not so radical solution would be to have them salvage all the design elements that are removable, and have it integrated into their new building. A kind of memory shakedown that would force the Board of Education to be connected with its past in perpetuity – a reminder that you can run away from history, but you can never hide from it.

A more worthwhile cause would be to rally the already funded New School of Liberal Arts out of its bubble in suburbia to its rightful place in the heart of a "Creative City" – adjacent to the AGH and the Theatre complex, to finally complete the cultural transformation of a plaza that has been in the making for 40 years. This would heal our core much faster than 400 doctors attempting to resuscitate it.

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2011-07-27 17:55:50

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