Unless you’re talking about any of the new Asian mega cities that emerge seemingly overnight, it takes time to develop a metropolitan area. And it takes concerted effort to continue growth in a way that works for the community instead of against it.
Architecture responds and predicts, all in an effort to remain relevant and useful. Without that evergreen nature, what’s inspiring today might meet the wrecking ball tomorrow. And in the meantime, it’s the community that either pays the price or grows and thrives.
Every Layer of a City Represents Different Values
Most cities have grown over a long period of time. What remains today is a blend of buildings and other elements that worked when they were born and continued to work for each new generation. But that’s not to say that people aren’t adaptable.
Communities conform, for better or worse, to what’s available. And when another option emerges, structures that can’t meet the needs of their people are either changed or replaced with ones that can. No building is designed with its end in mind, even though that could be what happens.
Architecture Defines by Listening
One of the greatest characteristics of good architecture is respect. That means respect for the community and its history, as Sir Norman Foster explained in an interview with The European. Because people do conform, it would be easy for an architect to design something that replaces the past and redefines the future. But it’s keeping important elements from the past that respects the people and gives a city character.
The needs of a community are found in the way that they live, work, and play. So in the creation of new, acknowledgement of the old plays an important role. Sometimes it’s a nod toward the past, such as the sleek design of the World Trade Center Tower 2, which is clearly new but also lets the community reflect.
Longevity Means Architecture Must Predict
The needs of the here and now are only important here and now. Tomorrow might be different, and it probably will be. So as much as architecture needs to respond, it’s also needs a good crystal ball to stay relevant in years to come.
But there’s no real way to accurately predict what future generations will want and need. Buildings partly define their occupants and their lives, so in a sense it’s the architects who decide what happens next, says Foster. But some changes can’t be stopped.
Think about the technical revolution. No architecture could have stalled, much less prevented it, even though many buildings were ill-equipped to handle it once it arrived in earnest. Prediction isn’t as much about creating a future as it is preparing for it.
Architecture has a heavy burden to carry. At nearly every turn, someone could be offended or pleased. Relevance today stems from a deep understanding of the community where the building will be and the people it will serve. But relevance for the future is part prediction, part flexible design, and part sheer luck.
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