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Architecture Essays: The Latest Architecture and News

Creating Architectural Value through Aesthetics

Humans try very hard to make the inexplicable understood. Our spirituality becomes religion. Fairness becomes law. And what delights us becomes aesthetics, and aesthetics are dumbed down to “style” in fine arts and architecture. The description, then definition, of aesthetics enables us to judge, and hopefully, control what thrills us: "Styles may change, details may come and go, but the broad demands of aesthetic judgement are permanent". -- Roger Scruton

But the instant delight we sometimes feel when we hear, taste, think or see parts of our experience is unreasoned in its apprehension. We try to create value in our outcomes by defining them beyond experience – that is aesthetics.

Why Francis Kéré Won the Pritzker Prize?

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Francis Kéré, 2022 Pritzker Prize Laureate . Image © Lars Borges

Last Tuesday, March 15, Francis Kéré became the first African architect to win the Pritzker Prize, the most important award in the architecture discipline.

The election of Kéré is not only symbolic in a time of identity demands, where the institutions that make up the mainstream are required to more faithfully represent the social, cultural, and sexual realities that make up our societies, but it also confirms the recent approach of the Pritzker Prize jury.

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Architecture as Sexual Technology

By defining sexuality as one of several sexual technologies, Michel Foucault has expanded our understanding of sex. This way, the relationship between architecture and the body is shaped not only by the built object, with its various spatial mechanisms for the production of bodies, but also by thinking, in the form of academic discourse. And vice versa, since gender and sexuality also impact architectural theory. One way or another, these relationships are very rich and capable of expanding our knowledge about architecture and the creation of generic sexed bodies.

Before “Colonial” There Was Immigrant Architecture in North America

There is an architecture of the migrant. It is survivalist, built with what is available, made as quickly as possible, with safety as its core value. Americans romanticize that architecture as “Colonial”: simple timber buildings, with symmetric beginnings, infinite additions, and adaptations. But “Colonial” architecture is not what was built first by the immigrants to a fully foreign land 400 years ago. Like all migrant housing, time made it temporary and forgotten.

Queer Looks On Architecture: From Challenging Identity-Based Approaches To Spatial Thinking

A growing number of theorists and practitioners have been discussing the impact of gender and race on the profession and theory of architecture. Issues linked to the relationship between the built environment, sexual orientation, and gender identity, however, remain particularly understudied, perhaps because of their relative invisibility and less clearly identifiable discriminatory consequences. Moreover, they are also completely neglected by design theory in the Francophone world. This article partially remedies the situation.

Living On the Edge: Why We’re Attracted to Places Where the Manmade Abuts the Natural

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "Living on the Edge."

I am on the edge. Not emotionally or psychologically—although this could be the case—but literally, physically, spatially, geographically. As I write this, I am sitting on the balcony of a hotel room in Miami Beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Behind me is the whole State of Florida and, indeed, the entire North American continent. In front of me: the boardwalk, a narrow beach, and then a lot of water—and not much else between here and Mauritania, a distance of more than 4,400 miles.

The Precarious State of the Mom-and-Pop Store

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

Few businesses in the United States are regarded with more fondness than mom-and-pop retailers. There’s an “all’s right with the world” quality about owner-run shops that meet a neighborhood’s everyday needs and, through repeated face-to-face exchanges, help people feel they’re members of a mutually supportive community. And yet for a long time, mom-and-pop stores have been under stress. In the half-century after 1950, cars shifted much of United States’s retailing to unwalkable roadside strips and winnowed the ranks of neighborhood-scale mom-and-pops. In the past two decades, the burgeoning of the internet has intensified the pressure on brick-and-mortar retail, a situation worsened by the pandemic.

The Chase Residence: The History Behind One of Texas' Most Radical Houses

The following text is excerpted from John S. Chase — The Chase Residence (Tower Books, 2020) by architect and University of Texas professor David Heymann and historian and Rice University lecturer Stephen Fox. Richly illustrated with archival materials and new drawings, the book is the first devoted to Chase, who was the first Black licensed architect in Texas. The study is divided into two parts, with Heymann examining the personal, social, and architectural significance of Chase’s own Houston house and Fox describing Chase’s architectural career.

This excerpt draws on Heymann’s analysis and highlights the first incarnation of the Chase Residence (Chase substantially altered its architecture in 1968). It places great emphasis on the house’s remarkable courtyard, a modernist innovation, and a singular statement about domestic living at the time. New section, elevation, and perspective drawings prepared for the book help illustrate the ingenuity of the house’s configuration. Finally, the excerpt was selected in part to honor Drucie (Rucker) Chase, who passed away in January of 2021.

The Case for a Feeling Architecture

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

My mother is a psychologist, so our family talks a lot about emotion. More specifically, we discuss the experience of emotion, because, as she  likes to remind me and my sisters, “We don’t think our feelings—we feel them, in our bodies.” According to my mother, it’s this experience of emotion that gives our lives a sense of meaning and vitality; as a result, her work isn’t about intellectual insight or abstract theories, but rather about giving her patients a new experience of themselves in the world.

Tech, Class, Cynicism, and Pandemic Real Estate

It didn’t take long for the coronavirus pandemic to inspire both cutting-edge architectural design solutions and broad speculation about future developments in the field. Many of the realized innovations have been contracted by or marketed to the real estate sector. But as firms compete to provide pandemic comforts to rich tenants, the COVID-19 technology that directly affects working-class communities is mostly limited to restrictive measures that fail to address already-urgent residential health hazards or administrative conveniences for developers that allow them to circumvent public scrutiny. These changes had been long-planned, but they have found a new license under the pretext of coronavirus precaution. In terms of “corona grifting,” this sort of thing takes the cake.

The Religion of the City: Cars, Mass Transit and Coronavirus

Religion is a uniquely human reality. As are cities. As we emerge from our burrows of sequestration, the silent cities and places of worship will become human again, versus the present sad memory of what they once were.

We will recover from another human reality, the pandemic and when we do we will be forced to address some questions. Before this century, the automobile was once seen as the way Americans could create a new reality: a huge middle class that could control its life by using the freedom that cars gave them to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and to live where they wanted. Before this latest change of sequestration, that vision of what cars meant to our culture was changing —especially in cities.

Architecture and the Environmental Impact of Artificial Complexity

This article was originally published on Common Edge.

There is an astonishing degree of complexity, order, and beauty in the natural world. Even so, and especially within the realm of living things, nothing is more complex than it needs to be to sustain its existence. Every aspect of the system serves a purpose. If it does not, the unneeded component eventually ceases to exist in future generations. Even with these constraints of resource and energy efficiency, we find boundless beauty and harmony in the natural world. Contrast nature’s “just the right amount of complexity” to the way many architects design buildings today. While nature is only as complex as it needs to be, architects and designers add excessive and inessential complexity to their buildings and landscapes when none is warranted.