“I’m an architect and I’ve designed buildings all over the world. Every time I get a commission in an emerging market, I get excited about the opportunity to draw from the country’s heritage , culture, and art. But the client never wants it. They all want the same thing: ‘modern style, modern style, modern style’. Everything has to be high and glassy. It’s almost as if everyone wants to hide their differences. It’s boring.”
This quote was given by an architect in an interview with Humans of New York. His statement is absolutely correct. Historically, new buildings have been designed to draw from the heritage of the country it’ll reside in, but that has all gone out the window in this post-modern era. Gone is tradition and beauty, and in it’s place is the mundane, boring, and indifferent.
Take, for example, the newest building on my campus at Thompson Rivers University.
Clearly designed with accessibility in mind and not appeal, the whole project can be deconstructed into high glass windows, steel framing, and wood decoration. Originally, a section of wall covered entirely green with plants provided a heart to the building, but has since been removed and replaced with a boring wood panelling. One unique feature I will give applause for is the Irving K. Barber center, a speaker room designed in the style of a Native American pit-lodge; complete with a grass roof!
But it’s not enough to just build the new this way, they must also destroy the heritage. This is the Gare de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. The original building was completed in 1883 and remains in use as the main station today.
This picture, taken in 2006, shows that the original terminal has stood the test of time, and is a central part of the city’s culture. That is important, especially because Strasbourg’s city centre has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The grounds of the station do look a little bit drab, but that could’ve been easily fixed with a public garden or similar project. Instead, a lot more money was spent covering the heritage with a glass monstrosity.
Like the architect said in his interview with HoNY, “… everyone wants to hide their differences. It’s boring.”
Modern architecture all follow this suit. The lack of originality, little evidence of character, and disregard of culture becomes very apparent and creates a dull and culture-less world.
However, not all new architecture is also modern architecture. Antica, a Russian construction and architectural firm, recently completed the building in Kazan, Russia that houses the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Agriculture. This eclectic architectural project proves that the opulent classic style of architecture is not entirely lost in our modern world.
Reflecting on the heritage of the region, this building draws on the beauty and tradition Russia has built into their society and culture. People are quick to forget the vibrance and historical resonance of Russian culture, but this building is a stern reminder of what once was – and what could be again.
Modernism won’t last for the same reason tradition will flourish, beauty endures.