2015 Burnham Prize Competition, Winner
Hosted by Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) in affiliation with Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB)
Addressing the "State of the Art of Architecture"
Blinded by “Delight”
Vitruvius wrote that good buildings should embody “firmness,” “commodity,” and “delight.” Because engineers and developers now largely control the conversation over “firmness” and “commodity,” architects only maintain real control over “delight.”
“Delight” can be interpreted as following our aesthetic impulses, tying architecture to “art.” Contemporary architecture consistently follows its aesthetic impulse. However, our “art” suffers from overindulgence. The art of architecture is infatuated with patterns, systems, tools and technologies. We design beautifully decorated boxes which can perform as structural and sustainable skins. We run wild with parametrics to combine uniqueness with efficiency. We obsess about complexity to the state of delight, but in our euphoria we ignore the political state of architecture. As with a poorly seasoned dish, our overindulgence results in buildings only showing the sweet side without any sour.
The unseasoned side to “delight” is political. The political side of “delight” ties architecture to humanity by challenging our cultural needs and desires. Beyond symbolism, the politics of architecture involves having influence with communities, governance, and society.
This state of the art of architecture is represented by the complexity of self-referential patterns indeterminately defining our cities. Each pattern overlaid is a translation of modern Chicago building details forming the skyline of Chicago. The patterns are generated using a digital scripts based on the original detail’s ordering system. The layering of patterns, yet lack of depth portrays the superficial approach to validating architecture.
We stand beside our patterns, systems and rules to justify “firmness” and “commodity,” but we also hide behind patterns, systems and rules to substantiate “delight.” We allow rules and methods to substitute for social code, and therefore, find ourselves confused by multitude and incongruity of images we produce for architecture.
There is a veil over our eyes, but the image of our city is the same.