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What's good architecture?

trecaines

What's good architecture to you? Is there even such thing as good architecture? Does architecture have a bigger role to play in society than the one it is currently playing?

 
Aug 11, 15 11:25 pm
Carrera

Guess I'll go first, reluctantly. It's not a matter of being good or bad, it's a matter of being or not being.

When the national AIA convention was held in Cincinnati (100 years ago) all things were Proctor & Gamble.... one of the events was a soap carving competition... big blocks of raw white soap were lined up on stools with spoons and other common tools and a group of architects commenced carving.... as the soap fell to the floor light bulbs lit up over everyone's head... it wasn't the soap on the stool that was the architecture but the soap on the floor... the voids in the soap created shadows, light & dark surfaces and the rest... breathing life into those lifeless blocks.

The role architecture plays in a society is breathing life into objects and transferring that life into the lives of people.... if there's no soap on the floor then it's not architecture.

My point of view.

Aug 11, 15 11:59 pm  · 
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midlander

Good architecture is always a judgment relative to the priorities and background of whoever is judging it. I don't really see a point to making an absolute determination of good architecture, and I don't use architecture to mean buildings of a superior quality relative to ordinary ones.

For me - Architecture is anything built to be inhabited and used. It may be a conscious and intellectual design (built or not), but more often it's just a phenomena of things built without any intention except to be used. The tectonic form and space planning are what I'd call the architecture, in the case of spaces like ships or aircraft that are inhabited but not primarily built as inhabited spaces.

Things built without the intention to be used or inhabited in some way don't meet my criteria of architecture - they might be sculpture or art.

Aug 12, 15 12:31 am  · 
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Would stock home plans be considered architecture in your criteria ?

I would consider it meeting that criteria (vs. licensing law criteria which has a specific legal context). As for good or bad.... I think is bad to judge something by. You get into too subjective of a basis.

I do believe if you have an objective criteria to gauge the effectiveness of a set of plans, I believe it depends on what criteria you judge by. Does it function well? What is the function criterion?

I believe function is more not just utility. There is a function of beauty. There is a function of experience of place. The criteria can be in those terms as well as in raw functional terms.

Judging architecture.... That's a rabbit hole for sure.

Aug 12, 15 12:45 am  · 
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go do it

This is good architecture.

Aug 12, 15 2:14 am  · 
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Where is surixurient when you need him?

Aug 12, 15 9:26 am  · 
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curtkram

Would stock home plans be considered architecture in your criteria ?

no, the home would be architecture.  the drawing of architecture is a drawing.

i like midlander's response.  you can't live in the drawing, but if you turn the stock plan into a house, then you have architecture.

that means you don't need an architect to design or build something that becomes architecture, which isn't complicated, but we sure do get a lot of complaining about that.

is it good architecture?  lots of people live in kit houses, and they like their houses, built families and memories and all that.  seems like it would be hard to say it's not 'good' from that perspective, but maybe gehry would call it shit because it's not clad in titanium.  lots of people on here would say a styrofoam strip mall is not 'good' architecture, but if the real estate folks or developers or whoever are making lots of money on it, or if some mom'n'pop shop are selling ice cream out of that strip mall, maybe their criteria for 'good' would be met.

Aug 12, 15 10:00 am  · 
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tintt

I always say it isn't hard to be a good architect but it is hard to be a great one. Likewise, I think there is plenty of good architecture, but great architecture is the elusive stuff. 

Aug 12, 15 10:09 am  · 
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Carrera

Sorry, have to go with Gehry on this….”98% of what gets built today is shit”. I would modify that to “98% of what gets built today isn’t architecture”. Just because an architect created an object doesn’t make it automatically architecture.

It’s 2% architecture and 98% rain-shelters, polluting the gene pool.

Aug 12, 15 10:55 am  · 
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gwharton

Good architecture creates a physical environment for people which reinforces their emotional and physical well-being, strengthens their communities and cultures, and reifies their values.

Aug 12, 15 11:53 am  · 
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x-jla

space that elevates the mind, body, and spirit.

Aug 12, 15 11:56 am  · 
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no_form
Good architecture doesn't bankrupt an individual or city.

Good architecture makes the owner money.

Good architecture doesn't leak.

Good architecture creates spaces that have a strong emotional effect on people for better or worse. Comfortable or horrid to be in.

Good architecture is conceptually rigorous.

Good architecture protects the health safety and welfare of people

Good architecture doesn't heat up the planet or waste resources.

Good architecture has a relationship to its local context in some way that is intentional.

Good architecture generates new clients for the architect.

Good architecture offends NIMBYS or makes people start a preservation group.

Good architecture challenges received ideas about what architecture should or should not be.
Aug 12, 15 12:18 pm  · 
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no_form
@miles jaffe, lol, good architecture is a hodgepodge of traditional forms concocted by a developer that built the homes based on market demand of what people "really want" naturally.
Aug 12, 15 12:20 pm  · 
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+ rob_c, except for the last two, both of which violate previous qualifications. Some of the others are debatable but all in all not bad. 

Aug 12, 15 12:22 pm  · 
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Thayer-D

Good architecture is the architecture people like, for what ever reasons they have.  It's what makes judging it difficult but not impossible.  If one want's a more refined definition, I'd go with gwharton's.

Aug 12, 15 1:35 pm  · 
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Carrera

Well, the problem today is that the 98% are diluting what architecture is. 100% might be able to define it, but only 2% can deliver it. Not always from a lack of talent, more likely screwed by circumstances.

Aug 12, 15 1:54 pm  · 
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chigurh

good architecture is maxed out crazy form, the more weirder shit, the better, can a computer generate it without a human being controlling it?  good!  dip that shit in solid gold, use unknown materials and forms never seen before.  go sisyphus or go home.  

Aug 12, 15 1:54 pm  · 
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TIQM

"Good architecture makes the owner money.

....

Good architecture generates new clients for the architect.

Good architecture offends NIMBYS or makes people start a preservation group.

Good architecture challenges received ideas about what architecture should or should not be."

Bad architecture can also do these.  And there is good architecture that doesn't do these. So I'm not seeing them as useful defining characteristics.

I think this is pretty close:

"Good architecture creates a physical environment for people which reinforces their emotional and physical well-being, strengthens their communities and cultures, and reifies their values."

Aug 12, 15 3:12 pm  · 
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Nice ideals, but a definition of values is in order, which is why I like some of rob-c's list.

Aug 12, 15 4:32 pm  · 
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TIQM

Cultural values are important and lasting beliefs or ideals broadly shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad, desirable or undesirable.


 

Aug 12, 15 4:42 pm  · 
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I wasn't looking for a definition of the phrase, I was looking for a list of specific defined values that constitute good architecture.

Many subcultures have values that are opposed to each other. Who's to say which ones are good? Obviously the ones you agree with, but that's hardly an objective standard.

Aug 13, 15 9:27 am  · 
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TIQM

"Many subcultures have values that are opposed to each other. Who's to say which ones are good? Obviously the ones you agree with, but that's hardly an objective standard."

I agree.  So for a phrase like "good architecture" to have any meaning, or to mean anything more than "buildings I like", there has to be broad consensus in a culture.  These from rob_c's list could be said to approach that, in my opinion:

 

Good architecture doesn't bankrupt an individual or city.

Good architecture doesn't leak.

Good architecture protects the health safety and welfare of people

Good architecture doesn't heat up the planet or waste resources.

Aug 13, 15 11:25 am  · 
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Carrera

^ Any Walmart can do that. The 4th is unachievable in theory.

Aug 13, 15 11:56 am  · 
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no_form
Eke the interesting thing about your statement is that of the freedom tower and the neighboring mosque. Clearly different values yet co existing. Each having their respective merits that meet the values I've outlined. I don't have to be a capitalist or a Muslim to use my list to analyze them. They both have strong emotional effects on people even if people say one is ugly or they don't like it. They both have conceptual rigor and a challenging relationship to their local context. Their presence whether good or bad strikes a strong emotional response in people. Neither leaks and both make or generate money to support their respective purposes.
Aug 13, 15 12:07 pm  · 
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TIQM

Good point, Quondam.

Aug 13, 15 12:18 pm  · 
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TIQM

It's clear that none of these individual criteria, when considered in isolation, are the essential defining characteristic of "good architecture". 

Aug 13, 15 12:22 pm  · 
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nurbie

I believe that ideas about what good architecture is are changing. Please take a look at this petition, and sign it if you agree with it: http://pluralityinarchitecture.us/

If you're a student, please say that too.

Thanks

Aug 20, 15 11:35 am  · 
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surixurient

Right here Miles.

I think it does have a greater role than the one it's playing.  Here is a good point made by John Ruskin on how it takes a village to raise/instill a sense of great architecture.

"remember that it is chiefly by private, not by public, effort that your city must be adorned. It does not matter how many beautiful public buildings you possess, if they are not supported by, and in harmony with, the private houses of the town. Neither the mind nor the eye will accept a new college, or a new hospital, or a new institution, for a city. It is the Canongate, and the Princes Street, and the High Street that are Edinburgh. It is in your own private houses that the real majesty of Edinburgh must consist; and, what is more, it must be by your own personal interest that the style of the architecture which rises around you must be principally guided. Do not think that you can have good architecture merely by paying for it. It is not by subscribing liberally for a large building once in forty years that you can call up architects and inspiration. It is only by active and sympathetic attention to the domestic and every-day work which is done for each of you, that you can educate either yourselves to the feeling, or your builders to the doing, of what is truly great."

Aug 21, 15 1:51 pm  · 
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no_form
Ruskin would commit suicide if he lived in the present. Also, the private individuals of most American cities and towns only knows about interior decorating from HGTV or Houzz and is charmed by vinyl siding schlock and attached garages.
Aug 22, 15 2:47 pm  · 
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