Architecture as Art: Good Idea or Very Bad Idea?

The ongoing debate amongst a group of friends about Architecture and where it does or doesn't fit within the art world heated up this past Monday with Arch Record's coverage of the ASAP Exhibit (Archive of Spacial Aesthetics and Practice). Founded by Tina di Carlo, the exhibit is focused on non-traditional media with regards to architecture & architectural representation, and advocates "architecture and its value as part of a broader social, political, and aesthetic discourse."

"The group's acronym, ASAP, a riff on the phrase "as soon as possible," was chosen to underscore the urgency di Carlo feels should be given to elevating and promoting architecture as a form of art, alongside painting, sculpture, and other traditional media."

At a time when salaries are cut across the board, with a significant chunk of the profession still facing unemployment, and firms of all scales fighting for even the smallest commissions... Is this a good thing?

With many a firm casting a wider net in hopes of reaching a broader market, does this kind of rhetoric and focus on Architecture-as-Art not push in the opposite direction? We've seen a renewed demand for designers to reach out to the 97% without architects in the last couple of decades, and I can't help but feel a little bit nauseous at the idea of rich men 'collecting' pieces of architecture.

Surely that's nothing new, but do we, as a profession, want to glorify and focus on this phenomenon? Is there not a better way to dialog with the public about what we really do?

I can't count the number of times I've been asked questions like "Do you make blueprints?" or "Can you draw a set of plans for me?" or worse yet, "All I need is a set for permit." But if our dialog, as a profession, continues to be dominated by a combination of starchitecture coverage and Architecture-as-Artwork, how can we ever hope to close the knowledge gap and educate the general public about what it is that 'the rest of us' do?

Dec 7, 11 7:03 am

Rusty Long, you raise some very good points and though I know you are mostly asking for dialogue, I feel like I;m enough in agreement with your view that I don't have a lot to add.

"Art" by architects sucks, almost universally.  We are considered an unnecessary luxury by the huge majority of people, at least in the US, and positioning ourselves more firmly in the art world in a huge mistake, IMO.

Dec 7, 11 9:11 am  · 

perhaps the reason architects are relegated to answering the absurd questions - which i will not restate - is that we have gone to the other side; we have forgotten the simple idea, that architecture is the mother of all arts, without architecture - in the broadest sense - art does not exist. when architecture became a "service industry", we were all forced to answer idiotic questions, from idiotic people.

while i partly agree with donna; art by architects, generally sucks, it generally sucks because it lacks a level of criticality and generally plays ball within the confines of an already tread upon field of play. artists have no problem using architecture to create; rachel whiteread, gordon matta-clark, dennis oppenheim, and many others, but they created something outside utility, and because of that created something new, something, that is art.

i welcome a return to creativity, a return to paper, a return to thought and discourse. fuck peter eisenman.

Dec 7, 11 9:46 am  · 

art asks questions, architecture provides answers.  they're fundamentally different ways of thought.  

doesn't mean you can't make art pieces about architecture or environmental design.  robert smithson made a career out of doing that.  also doesn't mean you can't design projects artfully.  

but they're, at the base level, different approaches so, no,  i don't think showing an art exhibition focused on architectural topics erodes the profession in any way.  just as I don't believe exhibiting art in a well designed work of architecture detracts from the art in any way.  they're mutually supportive.  


Dec 7, 11 11:02 am  · 

While I agree with some of what b3tadine(sutures) writes above, we cannot escape the simple fact that -- unlike painting or sculpture or literature -- our "art" generally is occupied by people. There is a shelter, security, functionality, economy aspect to our work that simply does not exist for most other art forms. This difference naturally brings people into our "art" and with that comes a seemingly unlimited opportunity for criticism or complaint.

Producers of the other arts generally undertake production of their art without the direct involvement of their eventual consumer. Consumers of the other arts generally know what they're buying before they hand over the cash -- and easily can walk away if they so desire. By contrast, our consumers generally are slap-dab in the middle of what we do and - because they pay the bills and control the budget - have extraordinary amounts of control over how our "art" unfolds. We don't like that, but we can't escape it either.

Seems to me this "customer involvement" distinction, vis-a-vis the other artistic endeavors, is pretty much unique to architecture -- and we ignore that distinction at our peril.

Dec 7, 11 11:39 am  · 

art generally sucks, just as architecture generally sucks.  Almost anything creative, in the broadest sense, "sucks".  Just look at music and just how absolutely horrible so many are!  

I think that's the nature of the beast.  There are just too many variables, from raw talent to financial support, that will influence the outcome.


Architecture can be art is the most basic answer, imho.  There are no absolutes.

Dec 7, 11 11:54 am  · 

Todays Architecture, to a great deal, lacks the integral thought to be considered art. The Arts and Crafts movement was integral, artistic design inside out, everything was considered from the Architecture to furnishings to linens, ceramics, etc...Frank Lloyd Wrights architecture was integral, as was the mid century moderns. Today, not.

Dec 7, 11 12:05 pm  · 

no, please god, no. not. frank. lloyd. wright.

you know, perhaps the most artistic creation ever conceived by wright was his infidelity.

Dec 7, 11 12:12 pm  · 

quizzical has hit on an important distinction that makes a parallel between art and architecture more acceptable: there is art, then there is PUBLIC art.  Art schools offer specialization within the area of public art, because it is, as quizzical says, art that people may have to interact with without choice.  Tilted Arc became architectural, both in scale and in function, and there was a huge outcry about it - a private piece of studio art simply won't have the opportunity to provoke that kind of controversy.  Art being produced FOR the public has to met much more stringent criteria than studio art.

trace I think we've discussed this before and we had to agree to disagree: in my opinion, architecture is NOT and never will be art, because, as jplourde says, art doesn't begin with the same intent as architecture does.  It's a very fuzzy line, and certainly some art approaches architecture and some architecture approaches art.

I know I've quoted this before, but Michael Benedikt's amazing essay For An Architecture of Reality addresses this topic: John Dewey...explained esthetic feeling as the satisfaction derived from the neat opening and closing of an experience framed and orchestrated by an artist.  Rare in everyday life (which is perpetually unresolved) esthetic experiences are especially valued, all the more for supporting as they do belief in the possibility of symmetry and justice in the design of the world as a whole.  It is not inaccurate, I think, to say that Dewey's ideas are widely held to explain adequately what is nice about Art and why we ought to have it.

In my mind, architecture SHOULD provide a framed experience and the possibility to contemplate symmetry and justice in the world, but must also provide shelter and a place to pee, and this is why it won't ever be Art.


Dec 7, 11 12:14 pm  · 

perhaps the most artistic creation ever conceived by wright was his infidelity.  This is brilliant, and also ties into Warhol's statement about good business being the best art of all!

Dec 7, 11 12:15 pm  · 

What does infildelity have to do with this topic? Are you questioning Wrights contribution to architecture as art? I have lived in a Wright house, and now live in a home designed and built by one of his most talented apprentices, and from personal experience, my home is what true Architecture and Art is all about. I also worked for the great Aaron Green, Architecture and Art were always considered almost equally.

Dec 7, 11 12:20 pm  · 

But Taliesin, FLW designed architecture, not art.  The initial intent, the impetus to create something, was not an artistic intent, but an architectural one.

The fidelity crack was a joke.

Dec 7, 11 12:24 pm  · 

Also, we're getting a bit afield from Rusty Long's post, which was asking if presenting ourselves as artists is good or bad for the profession.  I think for the profession it's an awful idea, for the discipline it's an idea that should be approached with caution and accountability for how it places us in society, and for the individual it's a matter of personal choice.

Dec 7, 11 12:34 pm  · 

As an Architect, I should hope I am also seen as an artist too.

Dec 7, 11 1:08 pm  · 

Sorry, Donna, but art history and history in general proves you wrong: Architecture can be Art, absolutely.  There is the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, a German term for the total work of art, in which one work synthesizes all or several other art forms (opera is another often given example).  This is what Architecture has done in its most outstanding outcomes, and shelter and peeing are side issues.  When you stand in the total brilliance of Chartres or (the original section) of Sagrada Familia, you don't think about the toilets or plain shelter, but of higher things: that is the effect of art, and architecture can achieve it, and can still achieve it today, although with more difficulty, I think.  This is why FLW was mentioned above (never mind what you think of his architecture, he did in fact synthesize more that one art form).

As far as architects today positioning themselves professionally as artists...yea, real good idea, change your stance from someone who makes little money to someone who makes none.


Dec 7, 11 1:14 pm  · 

We distinguish ourselves from artists because I believe we have ethical obligations, one of those being trying to mediate between private entities and the public realm.  But I don't think architects provide answers, architecture is both a facilitator and product of culture, as is art.  And if we look at it that way then it's silly to think that we aren't just constantly asking questions.  After all, "culture staggers endlessly sideways like a crab on LSD." :)  

Dec 7, 11 2:38 pm  · 

Architecture is as much a form of art as cuisine can be art. Some of us can adore those designs and small plates of three-thousand dollar a meal restaurant, but very of us can taste it. In the same vein, while I love architecture and study architecture there is a very slim chance I will ever get a point in my life where I will design somthing iconic like the Farnsworth house or record-breaking like Burj Khalifa, nor will I ever find myself in financial excess where I can afford to purcahse Wright's Parker house or Lautner's Chemosphere. And that is true for the greater part of the world's population. While architecture can be awed and admired, for most people it still remains just a roof over our heads.

Dec 7, 11 3:19 pm  · 

Why this either/or thinking at Archinect and with architects in general?  Like emart above, we love to separate: only these buildings or examples are architecture and only these lucky few can work on them.  Do we say of non-superstar musicians or painters or sculptors or movie makers that their work is not art because they are not, in society's estimation, creating the cream of the crop of art?  No we don't, a painting is stil art even if Picasso didn't paint it.  And Architecture has to be either a solely practical endevour or Art.  Why so?

The famous quote by Corbu:

"You employ stone, wood, and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces: that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say: 'This is beautiful.' That is Architecture. Art enters in..."

Notice he says ART enters in, but only after you solve the other problems with construction.  And it doesn't just apply to Corbu or FLW or Gehry or a chosen few, it's meant for all architects, and all architecture has the potential to reach that state.  It doesn't matter a fart if architecture for most people "still remains just a roof over our heads", just as it doesn't matter that for many people art is a frivolous waste of time.  If you design or make art by listening to opinion polls then you might as well give it up right now. 

Any art has practical considerations, functional real world problems to be solved in its creation (how does the sculpture stand up, what support or medium to use, where and how and with what equipment to shoot the film, etc.). Architecture has more than most because it is also lived in by human beings, but this is not an either/or situation (something is either functional or art), rather both/and: many things created by humans can be both functional objects and art (if this were not so you would have to mostly empty most museums).  And any architect can do what Corbu is describing, to whatever degree, without having to design a Farnsworth House or Burj Khalifa (??)



Dec 7, 11 4:50 pm  · 

From ASAP Founder and Director Tina di Carlo who just landed in New York from London:

"I don't advocate architecture as art ... I advocate architecture and its value as part of a broader discourse, this doesn't undermine traditional practices and it does seek to represent architects through the myriad media in which architecture is practiced. It also aims to expand architecture's public which can -- quite simply -- bring work. ASAP advocates different positions within architecture, and it aims to produce as well as collect work. It is not a traditional storehouse, but an archive of practices. There can be nothing that speaks more strongly of the value of architecture as a discipline in this way. This was a position that is rooted in architecture's own history by the way, from Miesian to MoMA. If you are going to take on a debate -- which I don't mind and in fact welcome -- then at least practice responsible journalism and be sure you have a good understanding of the subject matter that you are covering." 

Dec 7, 11 5:38 pm  · 

"The group’s acronym, ASAP, a riff on the phrase “as soon as possible,” was chosen to underscore the urgency di Carlo feels should be given to elevating and promoting architecture as a form of art, alongside painting, sculpture, and other traditional media"

It would seem that the people at Architectural Record misunderstood you, then..

Dec 7, 11 6:07 pm  · 

Beyond di Carlos condescending comment...I have often wondered that since the beautifully done hand drawings, sketches and presentation drawings every year become something of the this how Architecture is going to exhibited in the digital age? I visited di Carlos website, and looked at the few pictures representing Spacial...blah blah Praxis...not really sure what I was looking at, and why it was significant. Are Revit models going find their way to museum archives....will they have artistic value? Will exhibits like this be pretty much insignificant in the grand scheme of things? Will the process have no artistic value, and the finished product will be all thats worth saving, remembering, or studying?

Dec 7, 11 7:17 pm  · 

Donna - so let me ask you about photography, then...if a photographer was commissioned to shoot a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, can that never be "art" because it had a different purpose, than someone that went out with commission?

Many "artists" are commissioned to create specific pieces of "art".  That intention, then, is to  create a solution to a problem and be compensated for that effort.


I guess I fail to see how there can be a clear distinction.  Many a foley come to mind, that are, more or less, simply created to be "something" (some are "art", some sheds, etc.).   If you took the doors off the Disney Concert Hall, could you call it art?

Some of my favorite pieces of architecture would fall short on your requirement for a place to pee ;-)

Dec 7, 11 7:50 pm  · 

A good friend once told me to never, under any circumstances, join in a post-article message board conversation of my own article.

I feel compelled nonetheless to jump in and make clear that my intention was not to blast the exhibition, or art / architecture / practice overlaps. The question came up as a discussion as a result of the ArchRecord article, and I thought it a question worth asking.

That question being, as a profession, is this the best way to reach a broader audience of the public?

I can't say for certain that it isn't, and there are certainly much worse examples of architectural discourse in the public realm. It strikes me as an important part of the conversation, as is this little debate.

So, take that for what it's worth. My apologies if the original question was poorly framed.

I think the question would have been better stated: What other types of exhibition and outreach can further this dialog at a more grassroots / local level? How can we reach as many people as possible about what we do, and why it does, and should, matter to them?

Dec 7, 11 8:09 pm  · 
Tina di Carlo

Rusty. I think these are questions absolutely worth considering, and not outside the scope of ASAP's considerations or future programming. In fact we just had a question as to what the future holds for ASAP and we specifically did not want to limit our language to speaking about exhibitions. We would rather term our programming as acts, meaning that they all look toward having a certain agency. This agency can be historical, public, aesthetic, political, educational, social -- think, for example, Teddy Cruz and Mirza Butler -- and work at myriad scales and hopefully within local communities during our nomadic wanderings. It would even be great to frame this discussion as a more public debate, with a local community.

Dec 7, 11 8:30 pm  · 

trace your photography example is actually a very good challenge, and murky.  But I think it's not necessarily about the commission, that's too easy.  A photograph can be art, of course, but it's not in any meaningful way functional, so it still exists as this closed framed experience of itself, only, which categorizes it as art.  A historical photo of an event might function as a record document, and might also be artistic, but again it's not starting from that same place of intent that art starts from.

I don't know where art starts from.  I'm not an artist.  I also know lots of excellent architecture that doesn't include a place to pee, or even keep out the weather!  But it serves a purpose of marking a place that is NOT art-based, it's based on some other human need.  And lots of art marks a place, can be somewhat inhabited, provides some functionality...follies fall into this category of being not quite one or the other, though most follies are indeed commissioned, I'm guessing.

Art is totally unnecessary, which is what makes it so vitally necessary to human existence, right?

Dec 7, 11 9:20 pm  · 

My attitude allway's been that architects been using tradisional methods to reach trivial results and form has been one of the few options to make something that is build exactly how all other build is made, into "art". Architecture therefore are applied arts.  Only when something new surface architecture reach for that description. Allway's when structure has opened new possibilities, othervise architecture been chained by logistic. By conservatism.

And then fancy new forms, is not what make it art. Only structure and new way's to put things together, offer that possibility. If ontop the architecture is just an image of what would be expected -- a fancy surface on a tradisional structure, -- then all we get is an image, never the real thing.  Beside the real thing spark jealousy to the extents, that no one reconise the credits due.


Dec 8, 11 9:26 am  · 

Architecture is its own form of art.  Fine art has no external constraints...its only objective is to express.  In fine art constraints are set up by the author (they are internal). In architecture constraints are external to the author, and expression is a biproduct or result of a quest to satisfy these constraints with a solution generated from the ideology and techniques of the author. "Architecture as art" is really architecture minus the external constraints (and plus internal constraints) and it therefore lacks something fundamental to its being.  Architecture is not meant to express personal views it is meant to express the solution to constraints, and the solution is based on personal ideology, those being physical (gravity) through structure, technologial, social or functional through space and form and natural with light, orientation, and materials.....The painter starts with a blank canvas, the architect starts with the city- the earth  and all its baggage.

Dec 8, 11 11:56 am  · 

To add...

Some architects apply more internal constraints than others such as Gerry or Eisenman where as others like Stan Allen devise ways to further extract and define external constraints.

Dec 8, 11 12:04 pm  · 

this conversation will get nowhere as long as people think of art as, blank canvas, sculpture, painting, expression, beauty, form etc.. let alone defining which is which, it will confuse the meaning and the mission of both art and architecture.


Dec 8, 11 1:55 pm  · 

Donna, hmmm, I'd have to disagree (or course :-)  *hugs* ), I think photography can serve a  very clear purpose.  I was just browsing through W (I am doing more fashion photography these days, mostly for "fun") and the amount of beautiful photography, custom sets, exotic lighting, etc., is amazing!  All to sell a product.  So I would consider many of those photos "art" (and happily hang them on my wall), if you took the VERSACE logo off.

And, indeed, many an archived/ancient photo has been branded to become an "ad", and  therefore serves a very clear and deliberate purpose.  This could equate to how Bilbao is used in car ads - a background that is more 'art' than it is 'building'.

I do consider myself an "artist", at times, as I simply enjoy creating and designing (whether it be photography, graphics or architecture).  I look at all of them with a similar light - creative explorations in different media.  Some solve physical problems, some solve client problems, some do nothing at all but put a smile on my face.  

So, to me, it is all about "creating" and "creativity".  What is "good" and not, is a more challenging discussion.

Dec 8, 11 1:59 pm  · 

"A photograph can be art, of course, but it's not in any meaningful way functional, so it still exists as this closed framed experience of itself, only, which categorizes it as art."

Huh?  Why closed framed and referencing itself only, why hermetically sealed?  Why is that the only thing that's art?  And, again, why this separation of art from function?  This sounds like the more recent "artist as autonomous, sole actor, bringing his strictly non-functional creations into the world to enlighten the populace".  This is a fairly recent definition of artists and art, mainly a 20th century one.  Art can be and has been historically also a collective endevour, and has also historically had many functions.  If you look at the Chartres Cathedral I mentioned above, pretty much every "artistic element" that make up that building, say the stained glass windows, were also essentially advertisements, billboards if you will, for the Church.  And that's just one example.

I have a broader definition of art than some others here, and I DO consider architecture an art, and you, Donna, are in fact an artist, even though you don't see yourself as one.  Your are asked to bring something in the world that was not there before; you sit down in front of blank paper and bring forth a creation (doesn't matter that it originates from a functional program); you use tools and materials to make the creation visual; then other human beings help you to bring the creation to reality (collective endevour); all this sure sounds like the process of art to me.  Your are an artist, but in the present climate of "architecture as just business or function", your are afraid to admit it.

Dec 8, 11 2:40 pm  · 

"Architecture is not meant to express personal views it is meant to express the solution to constraints..."

And this is fundamentally and tragically wrong too.  Architecture expresses a multitude of personal views.  The functional program is but a guideline, a bare minimum of what has to be fulfilled; everything else, the "architecture" part of the design, is absolutely personal.  How do you enter, where are the windows, what views are best, is the stair monumental and centered or insignificant and to the side, are the materials bright or toned down, rough or smooth, and so on and so on...all these are answered by every architect differently and personally (and not just by "starchitects") and bring in personal feelings and memories and preferences that are as individual as in any other art form.

Please, PLEASE, I beg you fellow architects, don't strip architecture down to a functional, bureaucratic, soulless practice that just "solves problems", because then we really don't need architecture or architects.

Dec 8, 11 2:50 pm  · 
1  · 

"But Taliesin, FLW designed architecture, not art.  The initial intent, the impetus to create something, was not an artistic intent, but an architectural one."

Wright did indeed design art, in addition to his Architecture. He was also successful in creating an Architecture with both a functional and with artistic intent. He did not seperate the two, as somehow you are led to believe. The solution was the Art of Architecture, both integral. My house, to me, is indeed both art and architecture, but someone who loves shabby chic, victorians, or applied decorations that light up , might not agree. To each their own, of course.


Dec 8, 11 3:07 pm  · 

To me, art is supposed to challenge you or provoke thought.  This works great in some settings, and is horrible in others.  It isn't black and white, architecture can be art, but shouldn't always be.  And really isn't any question involving art going to have a answer that falls in the gray?

Art museums, public buildings?  Make me think.  Offices? I think this could go either way.  Homes? I just want to relax!

If we insist all architecture be art we will alienate people.  We need a MUCH larger market share in the housing market (If this interests you check out Nestiv).  But other projects are perfect for giving architecture the chance to push boundaries, and try new things.

Dec 8, 11 3:20 pm  · 

"architecture can be art, but shouldn't always be"

Again, it either is or it isn't.  What the hell is this flipping back and forth, why not accept that architecture is indeed one of the arts?  If you don't think so, check out any History of Art book: rip out all architecture and any art object that has or had a function and you wouldn't have many pages left.

Enough of this wishy-washy "Um, architecture could be art but gee, I don't know....well, maybe".  A painting isn't sometimes art and sometimes is sometimes a good painting, sometimes a mediocre painting, and sometimes a bad painting, but it's always art and the same goes for architecture. 

Dec 8, 11 3:54 pm  · 

And just to be clear, the reason almost all posters here treat "Art" as some mayonnaise or mustard that can be plastered onto architecture (and only in some very special cases by some lucky few) is that the term "art" has become shorthand for "fine art" which limits it to painting, sculpture, printmaking, and, reluctantly by some, installation, performance and photography.  But the "arts", plural, collectively include architecture, music, theater, opera, dance, literature, film, and probably a few other ones I'm forgetting.  So is architecture an art like painting or installation or film? No, it's different, but it's still one of the arts.

Dec 8, 11 4:07 pm  · 

Therefore....not all buildings are Architecture.

Dec 8, 11 4:12 pm  · 

Art?  That looks more like a Monopoly house:

Architecture is a game.  You are a player, yo!

Dec 8, 11 5:03 pm  · 

I am finding myself strongly discouraged, yet again, about the content of the discourse happening here. Where is it going, if not in circles?

We, in Architecture, have the power to truly change society for the better, but we do not do this by praising the past (dead people), the elite (starchitects), or the unbuilt.

We do this by looking at truly important issues which, frankly, we ignore in exchange for attention, peer acceptance, awards, and international accolades.

The original post, as well as the intentions of ASAP (or the descriptions of their intentions), stroke me as the wrong path, yet again, for a profession that has devalued and regressed in recent decades.

Only a radical shift in mindset, a different understanding of it, and the public's perception changing, will save it.

If you don't mind me asking... how many of you are actually Architects? ( and by that I mean practitioners. Licensed to practice the profession. ) I will take a stab at that and say none.


Feel free to read my own personal opinion on the matter...


Dec 8, 11 5:55 pm  · 

Yea, well, tcpg, you get the "presumptious" award.  I am in fact a practicing, licensed Architect and I'm pretty sure quite a few here in this thread and at Archinect also are.  But I guess if we have opinions different that yours then we must be impostors.

What you write also tells me that you didn't really look at what was shown at the ASAP website, rather you are just using it to confirm your prejudices.  If fact, ASAP does not just show just "paper architecture".  The things shown there speak of hybrid architectural attitudes and practices, which use the intentions and skills of an architect but not in a traditional-practice way.  Many of the things shows there are actual "built works", they're just not shopping centers or high rises, or even public housing (and are not trying to be).  Click on "In Protest, the Power of Place" or "Political Equator" and you will see that these projects are in fact looking at "truly important issues", they're just not doing it through traditional business practices.  They're ignoring nothing, but you choose to see it that way.  Also, ASAP is an archive of these hybrid approaches and experiments, so of course it's going to have paper and exhibits.  Sure, you want to see more discourse, but only if it fits your conception of what is "proper".  If the profession has in fact regressed or been devalued in recent years then I'm sure you have no monopoly on fresh and insighful ways to approach it and give it new life.

Dec 8, 11 6:26 pm  · 

Architecture can be whatever you want it to be. There are as many answers as there are questions, all right, all wrong, depends on who is asking and answering. You can change the world, or you can sit in the back and do toilet elevations...theres a place for everyone. You have to make it work for you, I don't really care what the masses think about architecture, and I don't really care what other architects think about Architecture. I have my path for myself in architecture well planned out, and what I want to accomplish, and I am sure it is not what most everyone else wants, I dont care. If someone thinks an exhibit of whatever it is will promote Architecture in a certain, cool, in the grand scheme, it has no effect on me, and will probably play an insignificant role in the future...or..not. Who knows..For me, debt free, a kick ass home, and some beautiful stuff, a few clients who "get it", a loving wife, and some good friends, and soon my license...( the list is nearing completion)..and I'm cool. I'm jumping off this ship now...hope you all find your answers.

Dec 8, 11 6:52 pm  · 

KW, your last two sentences remind me of this...

only not as funny.  How very nice for you.

Dec 8, 11 7:14 pm  · 

Damn...I knew I forgot a few things on the list! Thanks for that, haven't seen that in a while.

Dec 8, 11 7:33 pm  · 

Emilio: Dave HIckey said architects are just artists who want to make their mothers happy.

I am most definitely NOT an artist.  I'm an architect.  My husband is an artist.

This conversation is tiring.  I admit I have a very strong personal opinion on this, and no amount of persuasion by anyone will change my mind.  In part this is because I went to Cranbrook, which covers nine disciplines but offers only two degrees: MFA or MArch.  I'm very steeped in the idea that architecture is the main definer of shared culture and should aim to integrate with, without being subservient to, art, which another beast entirely.

Dec 8, 11 9:26 pm  · 

I find Dave Hickey tiring and have even written a paper saying so.

Well, I hope you don't take offense that I will keep on thinking of you and all other architects as being artists...and no amount of persuasion will change my mind.  I came to architecture because of the Parthenon, Chartres, Ronchamp. etc. etc., but if I have to stop thinking of architecture as the greatest of all arts just because these things were made by "dead people" and have nothing to say to us, then maybe architecture itself is indeed dead.

Dec 8, 11 11:22 pm  · 


Granted, every structure within the built environment has a special function and serves a particular purpose. In the past, the building’s importance stopped there, with function; however today designers are turning to sculptural expression to enhance architecture and provide interactive experience. The intent behind this new idea of architecture as art is not to create buildings as art installations solely for viewing but to design structures that become functional art intended to provide heightened human experience. This is a sensitive subject among the design profession. What about respecting context? What about historical aesthetic orders and traditions that have been embedded in the profession for ages?

“Nor is there any attempt at simplistic visual contextualism in the external appearance of the project [Donnybrook]. Barber rejects the British habit of copying the surrounding forms and building materials for the spineless ethos that this represents. Fantastic cities are only good because they contain many different types of buildings, and it is rather the linking of lively social spaces that gives them a sense of urban context, not sterile design codes.”1

Take Libeskind’s museum of contemporary art in Denver, Colorado. Here Libeskind breaks free from his instinct to contextualize or traditionalize and the result is a breathtaking artistic expression.

“With its fractured shape, slanted planes and sharp corners galore inside and out, it pointedly and insouciantly declares its position in the ongoing debate about whether or not architecture should fade into the background when displaying art.”2

He uses architecture as sculpture to create functional space that compliments the intensive exhibits with ease. What if Libeskind was concerned with contextualization or didn’t have the rigor to push the limits of steel frame construction? Then would Denver be a fantastic city? Or would it be merely a place littered with repetition of form and reuse of building materials?

Architecture as art is exciting. Creating spaces that provide purposeful experience while simultaneously offering an artistic expression is changing the worldview on architecture and what it means to the people of our culture. People no longer take buildings for granted; they appreciate them, experience them and accept them.

Dec 8, 11 11:49 pm  · 

I think some people are obsessed with labels way beyond any reasonable concern. Architect, Designer, Artist…

I recently watched an interview to David Adjaye on CNN. When they asked him if it’s true that he doesn’t like being called a starchitect, he said it’s a term that creates yet another group, that separates people… and he is interested in doing the opposite: bringing people together.


Note: My apologies to you Mr. Adjaye for my poor memory and not being able to quote you word by word, but I believe that’s pretty close to what you said.


Dec 9, 11 4:25 am  · 

Considering that the Mei Moses index is up nearly 12 % year to date, maybe architects should be selling architecture as art, yo!

Dec 9, 11 8:55 am  · 

"And this is fundamentally and tragically wrong too.  Architecture expresses a multitude of personal views.  The functional program is but a guideline, a bare minimum of what has to be fulfilled; everything else, the "architecture" part of the design, is absolutely personal.  How do you enter, where are the windows, what views are best, is the stair monumental and centered or insignificant and to the side, are the materials bright or toned down, rough or smooth, and so on and so on...all these are answered by every architect differently and personally (and not just by "starchitects") and bring in personal feelings and memories and preferences that are as individual as in any other art form."

You didn't read my post in full. As I said, In architecture constraints are external to the author, and expression is a biproduct or result of a quest to satisfy these constraints with a solution generated from the ideology and techniques of the author.  I am not saying architecture is neutral, I am saying that its primary goal is to satisfy it does so is up for interpretation and subject to the views of the architect.  Material selection is not arbitrary it is based on constraints such as technoloogy, climate, local history, structural capability....(You can't build a skyscrapper out of rammed earth but you can build a single story house with it.)  And I am not saying architecture is not art, I am saying it is its own form of art like music.  The expression of the architect is important, but if a place fails to function well because of it,  I would say the architecture sucks.  It is the ability to create intricacy and harmony between all aspects of function and expression that makes great architecture (kimball art museum- form, light, material, all work together to create a great and functional space while simultaniously expressing vernacular forms , and kahns unique "style"....)

Dec 9, 11 10:22 am  · 

I see architects kind of like directors.  A book can be turned into a film and the story can be expressed in many ways, but the director is constrained to certain parameters that are necessary to the nature of the story.  An architect is also given constraints with a specific site and project.  A good architect will explore and try to define all of these constraints and then like the director create harmony between them with his or her personal "style."  Fine art for the most part is different in that the artist can pick the battle and choose the constraints to deal with.  Artists are not handed a problem to work out They have a "blank canvas" as a metephor and decide the medium, subject, and rules on their own.


Dec 9, 11 10:41 am  · 

Ok, thanks for the clarification, arleo. I would respond that things like technological constraints (what materials to use, etc.) and context exist in other art forms as well; function and safety are obviously more pertinent to architecture because people walk around and live in our creations.  But I also think you can fulfill function poetically (and that could be the very definition of architecture).

Seeker, you're right, it's all just semantics, and what does it really matter in the end? But when I see people so insistent on maintaining this strict segregation (NO NO NO, architects are not artists, no way!) my hackles raise up and I can't help but argue the other side.  Architects are mostly wonderful people, but they can also be petty, small-minded, and dare I say, jealous when they see one of their own doing something creative in another arena (painting, sculpture, installation) that they can't do or are afraid to do...or maybe they just think that it's contaminating architecture with the stink of turpentine and unwashed hipster artists.  But that's besides the point, because I think architects are already artists, without having to fling paint at a canvas.


Dec 9, 11 12:11 pm  · 

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