A New Age

In the chapter “Seeing Through Paper” of The Projective Cast, Robin Evans argues that “buildings… are mightily influenced by [the means of their production].” He gives a fascinating account of how architects designed buildings in the Classical period (base line, center line, processional axis, and so forth) and he claims that the Classical order was a “tendency, not an imperative”. In other words, buildings were orthogonal, symmetrical, planar, frontal, and axial because those were the characteristics that the means of their design facilitated. To design otherwise would be impractical and probably not even possible.

Today, we attend tedious conferences on computational design where the eternal dilemma is to figure out whether we are in the information age and, if yes, how to we deal with it as architects. The advent of three-dimensional computer modeling—in the design process more than merely as a representational device—has taken architecture to a whole new level. If Modernism was an ideological revolution in architecture (in which projective drawing remained the means of design and representation) then where we are now –let us call it the information age—is even more radical. This is because it comes with a cultural/ideological as well as a technological shift.

The technological part is obvious. The ideological shift is hard to pin down because its defining feature is dispersion. If Modernism was about industrialization and mass production and categorizing and labeling, this, here, now is about infinite variability. No one person can proclaim an International Style because we no longer live in a colonial world. We embrace cultural diversity and everyone has a voice, on mass media and on the internet. This is also manifest in an infinitely variable architectural expression, and in an architecture that is highly attuned to its geographical/environmental and cultural/political context.

There is no question about it. People will talk about the 2010s in the same way we talk about the Modernisms of the 1920s.

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