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Old October 22nd, 2011, 09:48 PM   #1
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Discussion: How good economies lead to bad architecture

With regards the above statement, there is a common knowledge that the Architectural industry is dependent on the state of the economy at all times. The economic climb or boom affects Architecture in positive way. Rapid change in the skyline of any city is a sure sign that the economy is doing well. The nuisance of construction noise and large cranes abstracting the panorama are in fact physical symbols of prosperity in other industries and sectors of the financial system. With climbing economy, the Architecture thrives and flourishes.

With large budgets, open minded clients, technology advances, how the climbing economy can affect the architecture negatively? Yes, and it is a frequently described phenomena. The phrase 'form follows function' - described patterns of modern design and architecture, as opposed to postmodern style of the 'noughties' 'form follows fashion' dominated the scene of thriving Architecture. Such 'fashion', a new trend of Architecture demanded to be bigger and bolder, to be noticed, to attract attention of tourists and foreign investments - all this nurtured faceless consumerism culture in the field of Architecture.

Is this a common perception amongst the current architectural enthusiasts?
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 06:01 AM   #2
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Interesting thread title question. However I can vouch that sometimes bad economies can lead to good architecture. The architecture firm I'm working at was bidding a few years ago for a £10million hospital extension and because every local company wanted the job the same project was delivered for just under £8million. No company involved really made any profit, so essentially the clients got £2million of building quality for free. No other £8million hospital job looks so good! (link)

But good economies usually lead to good architecture, do they not? Often clients will want to promote their new found wealth in a good economy with a show-off building. There will always be architectural fashions, each era has its way of doing things, based partly on technology available, partly on what developers ask for. There are always good and bad architecture whatever the state of the economy. I don't think that the economy affects building quality as much as everyone thinks it does, more that clients get better value for money (albeit at higher risk) in a poor economy and standard value for money (lower risk) in a good economy.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 12:16 PM   #3
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However I can vouch that sometimes bad economies can lead to good architecture
I fully agree with that- the recession acts as a sort of steriliser, gets rid of excess and impurities.
How ever Declan Carroll, principal of Arup Associates states in his interview with Dan Steward (Building web page) “Bilbao was a big shift in terms of how architecture was perceived in the market, suddenly, it was seen to be something that would transform a place’s cultural identity. But that’s the opposite of what architecture should be about. It should be the other way around, surely – a place’s cultural identity should inspire its architecture.” The emphasis became placed on the appearance rather than the substance, much like in the fashion world itself. New terms like 'Iconic' architecture, 'Urban Bling' were used to describe the style that expressed 'financial capabilities' (Slate web site) of the client who's briefs specified for the new building to be iconic. 'The cart before the horse' dynamics developed despite 'Architectural icons are generally anointed by the public, and sometimes a long time after they are built' (The Wall Street Journall). May be the extensive media coverage of the 'Mad' architecture is to blame? Robert Venturie's 'Less is bore' (Guardian web page) became appropriate for extravagant structures. The showy buildings, appraised by architectural journalists for their psychedelic features often were flawed in their planning. Daniel Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum North in Salford became highly appraised for its conceptual design. The appearance of this structure has been successful, on the other hand - ''His 'bombastic', Imperial War Museum was singled out for Britain's worst energy performance being, in effect, a building practically designed to waste energy'' Carroll D. (Building web page) underlines the issue of abandonment of 'form ever follows function' philosophy .
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Old October 27th, 2011, 09:58 AM   #4
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I thought about this myself a lot and seems that sometimes this is definitely true(though not always). A strong economy might mean that builders won't try as hard and will concentrate on getting things done quickly and moving on to another project, because people might buy/lease regardless of quality if there's a shortage of avalability. A slow economy on the other hand can force builders and architects to deliver their best - it's all in the supply vs demand. I think China is a good example here where a lot of bland and crappy apartment buildings are being built all over the major cities because there's such a demand for space that nobody cares what it looks like.

But of course this can work the other way around too; a strong economy might be necessary to finance good projects, and a weak one might convince people to ignore quality. An opposite example would be Toronto where there's a continuous building boom which gives buyers much greater choice thus forcing builders to compete. I think a balance provides the best results, where there's a steady stream of buyers and builders; never too much or too little.

Last edited by Ervin2; October 27th, 2011 at 10:06 AM.
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