Relevant Architecture

Relevant architecture

Regarding your recent editorial comment in Residential Design & Build magazine (What is Relevant Architecture?) asking the question “what is relevant architecture,” allow me to respond with the following comments.

It is a common misconception that “modern design” or “modern architecture” is simply a style much like the other styles that you mentioned such as “Old World,” “Tudor,” etc. Back in the early part of the last century, the world of marketing latched onto the notion of modern architectural design as a style for selling everything from houses, automobiles, streamlined passenger trains to home appliances. However, the concept of modern architecture, within the profession, has always been more philosophical than stylistic.

Thus your comment regarding the most relevant style or the idea that modern design is simply a niche amongst many is misplaced. The most relevant architecture is that which most comprehensively addresses the needs, aspirations and concerns of contemporary households — typically these transcend style. We are living in an increasingly diverse and interconnected global society where household structure and demographics do not always reflect that of an earlier era. In addition, the building and architectural professions must act as leaders to help our society achieve a more balanced and sustainable future regarding land-use policies and energy consumption both at the building manufacturing and homeowner levels.

By avoiding a stylistic focus, contemporary (a much more appropriate word than modern) architecture can provide a more meaningful solution to our current and future concerns. In a sense we need to go back to the future and look at the pioneering work of Sunset Magazine and its Case Study program (1948 – 1968), as well as the utterly contemporary homes created by Joseph Eichler in the 1950s and 1960s. These examples tried to look beyond style and instead examined how the post-World War II population was going to live. To a large extent what was true then is still true today, and since that world is closer to our own than the “Old” or “Tudor” worlds, maybe — if we must adopt a style — that is the more appropriate place to look.

Gerry Tierney, AIA
Director, housing practice
San Francisco

Homes are works of art

Thank you for the editorial in the February/March issue of Residential Design & Build (What is Relevant Architecture?) and providing your readers an opportunity to respond. Architecture, and design in general, has been my personal passion all of my life of building and teaching. And, yes, our homes and our buildings should be works of art. A house becomes a home when it is a work of art.

The home should be one with nature, organic in design by being designed with nature as its major criterion. The house should be site specific, emphasizing its unique orientation to sun, wind, rain and views. The house becomes one with nature.

The house should utilize the latest technology: of construction (concrete cast in insulating forms, environmentally neutral and safe materials), use of passive energy (solar hot water, natural day lighting) and active energy systems (photovoltaic, wind) and more. To be conservative is to conserve water and energy, and be sustainable.

As for style, the home must have a style of its own and of its time and not just be a style from another era. The matter at hand, what is relevant is creative design and should evoke an emotional response, allow for a new experience, create excitement, become an adventure and an experiment in daily living. To accomplish this, the creative design architect must have a creative client and maybe a creative builder as well. All creative architecture has had creative clients.

Winslow E. Wedin
Architect, teacher and artist
Boca Raton, Fla.