Kenneth Frampton is a renowned British Architect and critic, known best for seminal work, “Towards a Critical Regionalism: 6 Points for an Architecture of Resistance”.
I’d heard of this work before looking for architectural manifestos. To me, it sums up what architecture should be and unfortunately what, in my experience, the contemporary practice of architecture is not; it embodies the rebellious spirit of the designer and of going against the grain. The crooks of the theory lie in being contextually sensitive and resisting the contemporary cultural flattening and banality that ironically comes from globalisation, whilst adopting the benefits of technological developments. It celebrates the contextual, progresses the social locality and reinforces the genius loci of the space. This aligns with my perception of what good design is, and this can be seen in my lo-fi approach to my project.
The paper is also relevant to my Praxis work; Frampton’s work is a manifesto in its own right, a call to arms for Architects to consider the place rather than just the building. I will use ‘Critical Regionalism’ as a criteria by which to judge my potential practices. There are certain practices I am aware of who subscribe to same principles as Frampton, namely Tadao Ando (one of my favourite designers) and Peter Zumthor. Whilst these Architects are undeniably acclaimed, they are reference points rather than my entrance into an essay, as I would like to find a smaller, lesser known designer to explore.
Linked closely to these principles of design are the “scapes” defined by Arjun Appadurai is his social commentary Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy, and the renowend Finnish critic Juhani Pallasmaa, and his masterpiece of design theory; The Eyes of The Skin. These theories will contribute to the criterion by which I will select my practices.
Below is a small summary of the 6 points put forward Frampton (1983):
1 – CULTURE AND CIVILIZATION
- Contemporary design is a display of “the victory of universal civilization over locally inflected culture”.
- The ‘in order to’ has become the content of the ‘for the sake of;’ utility established as meaning general meaninglessness.” – Hannah Arednt (The Human Collection, 1985, p.154)
2 – THE RISE AND FALL OF THE AVANT-GARDE
- “The emergence of the avant-garde is inseparable from the modernization of
both society and architecture.”, sometimes as a progressive libertarian, sometimes in violent opposition to bourgeois high culture.
- A great example of the avant-garde is Futurism; global upheavel and chronic psycho-social instability towards economy and politics following WW1 lead to a range of movements such as ‘Purism, Neoplasticism and Constructivism’.
- Art has began to gravitate towards commodity.
3 – CRITICAL REGIONALISM AND WORLD CULTURE
- Architecture as a critical practice must distance itself equally “from the myth of progress and from an impulse to return to pre-industrial forms.”
- Critical Regionalism is not a shallow return to a hypothetical vernacular.
- Deconstruct world culture and critique universalisation – Jorz Utzon’s Bagsvaerd Church uses regular, universal precast concrete mixed with in-situ concrete which spans the nave and becomes symbolic across cultures – Traditionalism of religion with contemporary forms in a “highly secular age”.
4 – THE RESISTANCE OF PLACE-FORM
I don’t currently fully grasp this chapter, it seems to be referring to where place becomes a form, this definition and nature of a boundary and so, being closely linked to urban design. It deals with the abstract concept of space as put forward in 1954 by Martin Heidegger in “Building, Thinking, Dwelling.”. Abstract space springs to mind Tschumi?
5 – CULTURE VERSUS NATURE: TOPOGRAPHY, CONTEXT, CLIMATE, LIGHT AND TECTONIC FORM
- Incorporating the existing site has the “capacity to embody, in built form, the prehistory of the place, its archeological past and its subsequent cultivation and transformation across time. “
- Local light and wind are fused with the universal concept of a window; this in itself is critical regionalism.
- “Construction is an art form…The functionally adequate form must be adapted so as to give expression to its function.”- Karl Botticher, Die TekJonik der Hellenen, 1852.
6 – THE VISUAL VERSUS THE TACTILE
- Juhani Pallasmaa – The Eyes of The Skin (1996)
- “The tactile resilience of the place-form and the capacity of the body to read the environment in terms other than those of sight alone suggest a potential strategy for resisting the domination of universal technology.”
- “In this way, Critical Regionalism seeks to complement our normative visual experience by readdressing the tactile range of human perceptions.”
- PERSPECTIVE = OBJECTIVITY = DISTANCE = LACK OF NEARNESS (Heidegger)
- “The tactile and the tectonic jointly have the capacity to transcend the mere appearance of the technical in much the same way as the place-form has the potential to withstand the relentless onslaught of global modernization. “
Although this incredibly short paper was written in 1983, its message still resonates and should be on the bookshelf and in the mind of every designer. It can be read as an architectural manifesto, or as a transcendent piece of literature.
Frampton, K. (1983) Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance. In, Foster, H. (ed). Postmodern Culture. London; Pluto Press. pp.16-30.
Pallasmaa, J. (2005) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. London: Wiley.