Thursday, May 19, 2011

You're No Longer My Taste

The experience of picking up a path or school of thought in architecture is almost like falling in love with a person. The stages go from being strangers to, well strangers again like in this video.. Or maybe for the lucky ones, no matter how the love fades away… when you beckon, it'll come right on you burning brightly and lasts forever. 

I used to be very keen on modernism. I once thought it’s a compliment to be called a modernist. “Form follows function”, “less is more” and “no ornament is the new ornament” are trio famous quotes coined by 19th C modernist architects which all sound so appealing to me. 

However, whenever I went back home, I have some kind of recurrent frustration about the architecture. I’m getting sick of seeing stripped off flat fa├žade, glass curtain walls, white wash painted wall, linear columns, doors and windows arrangement and random roman cornices in suburban retail buildings. 

…and whenever I told people that I’m doing architecture, one of the common remark would be“nanti boleh la design bangunan pelik2, bangunan kat Malaysia bosan” 

Of course I’m aware of our economic status. As a developing country the art and architecture are still pretty much dependant on the low development in material and technology production aka industrialization. Modernism in Europe had once made it influence for devoting to standardization which obviously pledged to industrial development. We probably don’t have THE money to do STRANGE building. 

BUT last two years, our prime minister had proposed a Wawasan Tower, a 100 storey building to serve as our urban/country landmark. The project has raised quite a voice amongst the people. Most are, against it. 

I’m probably one of those who’s not thoroughly against it, albeit not supporting it. Yes, I completely agreed with all the arguments put forward by my fellow Malaysians. Our urban development needs to focus on and fix other fundamental things like public transportation, education, refurbishing existing dodgy buildings and preserving our heritage (such as Pudu Jail!). And yes, we have enough of white elephants. 

I however have faith in architecture, no.. not building but architecture. Remember what the prophet did during the opening of Medina? He built a mosque. Thence, everything started to happen around it. The idea here is not to built a mosque.. but to acknowledge the power of a building in bringing people together, shaping lifestyle, making identity statement, and empowering a nation. 

It’s okay to have another ‘iconic’ (I’m actually reluctant to use this word) building. But NOT ANOTHER TOWER. I used ‘iconic’ to depict the idea of the building being significantly outstanding… not Zaha Hadid or Frank Ghery kind of ‘iconic’ stuff… not, not the ‘schmuck’ architecture. It’s more on ‘bold’ and culturally significant kind of architecture… the post-modernism, that is. 

Architecture should be impressive and attractive, especially when it’s meant to be public. It should be able to attract people into it, even though by just looking at it. You can’t force people to enter a building -unless it’s a dungeon, but you can’t hide a building from people’s sight. Hence, it must be able to give an impressive first impression, not necessarily ‘good’… just impressive. Like, I really don’t mind if people look at my building and say ‘what the heck is that is?’ rather than saying ‘that’s such a beautiful building?’… of course the second remark is more pleasing to be heard…. But as long as people ‘notice’ it…to me, that's good.

Again, I’m not talking about plucking a star and put it on earth, just to make the impression. I’m not interested in random out of context, alien kind of architecture. Architecture could be weird, but it has to be bolted to contextual reference such as history, culture, memory…and people. It has to make a statement. 

The forms don’t have to follow function, because to me… they never did. They’re always two separate things. You can always squeeze a function into different sort of spaces which always breeds interesting spatial quality/environment. 

Mess is More. Less is more only when you care-less. 

No ornament is NOT ornament. I’m doing a subject called ‘Ornament and Counterposition’. Various arguments have been presented in arguing minimalist views about spatial ornament…about ornament being space etcetera. Still, my take is always… architecture is not only for architects. You’re not handing out architectural books and philosophical writingsss to people in order for them to understand the quality of your building. If it’s decorative… it’s visible. 

Modernism is good in many senses, but I want something better. Here I’m to declare, you’re no longer my taste. We're now strangers, again. Sorry! 


Regarding the Wawasan Tower project, I’m planning to take it into research for my major project next sem…proposing an alternative… considering urban, economical, political, social arguments etc…. still unsure though. What do my readers think? 


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