Architecture

Radley says to go "have and Ayn Rand moment." I get what he means, but you either like those, or you don't; and frankly, I have never considered architecture to exist in the sort of "art space" that Rand seemed to -- even though I think that some architecture is "artsy" to the point of dysfunction. I just think it's a lot more subjective and reflective of changing (harmless) attitudes about "style" (like clothing, to some extent), within the context of some physical functional beyond that of art.

I happen to really like all of those designs, but I'd have liked them before reading about Roark, and I just don't see what one really has to do with the other if I really stop to think beyond the literary device of that novel. You are perfectly free to not like one or all of those designs, and I don't think it necessarily, by itself, reflects a single thing about you.

Comments

  1. I recently re-read the Fountainhead, and not knowing much by architecture I can only speculate at what Rand was getting at, from my own perspective.

    I've only recently realized how important architecture in general is, and I'm not talking about buildings, but coherent concepts. Airplane, car, spacecraft, and software systems all have to have a coherent plan and idea behind them, so that a good design is recognized by the whole experience of the thing. A good design gives you that warm feeling when you use it, not because of how artful or trendy it may be, but how thoughtful it is. Sure, all of those designs are pleasing to the eye (except for the Residence Antilia, which is hideous, in my opinion, but I'm going by only one picture and my first impression might not last), but time will tell if any of those are true architectural greats. If the design is well thought out, construction will go smoothly, maintenance will be a breeze, and the tenants will enjoy working there because of the view and the features of the building. Time will tell, and it will be the people who actually use those buildings that decide how great such things are.

    As an example, I know how much I don't like certain things about the architecture on the University of Florida campus. It frequently rains in Florida, and several of the engineering buildings, where people should know better, are lacking in simple awnings or walkways that make it possible to enter and exit the building without having to shove an open umbrella through the door to prevent a drenching. The newest building, designed by a much more thoughtful architect, doesn't have this problem, as it has amenities to prevent this. This is just one example of what I think is important when it gets down to the details of whether or not something is good architecture/design or not.

    I don't think appreciating architecture has anything to do with Ayn Rand, like you are driving at. If someone's only way of appreciating good design was through the lens of Ayn Rand, or what they think Ayn Rand would enjoy, I think that they're going to end up chasing unicorns. It's all about making things a pleasant experience, and yes, it will be different for different people. Kind of like how I can't stand the design of ITunes and much prefer the design of WinAmp or Amarok, which I find easier and more intuitive, with less crap keeping me from doing what I want.

  2. I worded that poorly, "I don't think appreciating architecture has anything to do with Ayn Rand, like you are driving at." seems to suggest you were implying that Rand's ideas were necessary to appreciate architecture, which is not true.

  3. "I have never considered architecture to exist in the sort of 'art space' that Rand seemed to."

    Frank Lloyd Wright did, before she did. Lots of serious and worthwhile architects have. So did the ancient Greeks.

  4. Anonymous says:

    OK, let me draw a distinction, since I really love Wright's work and have seen some of it in person.

    Architecture can be art, of course, but I don't see it as primary or even necessary. It's just like you can have an artful table, chair, or other such functional thing. But there's an inverse trade off on a number of levels, including cost.

    I don't see the point in criticizing architecture from an art perspective, unless the primary purpose of the design is art and not function; and then if its primary purpose is to be artful yet also functional, a great deal of that is just subjective preference, I think. And then since it is supposed to be functional then it seems to me that one must consider to what extent the needs of art compromise the needs of function.

    Roger Ebert often says something about critiquing film that I think is important. He says a film should be judged on what the film tries to do and not on what you think the film ought to try to do.

  5. Anonymous says:

    By the way, for a number of years, I think all through high school, I was intent on being an architect. In preparation, I took four years of drafting and mechanical drawing classes.

    I imagine there's a lot in common with the drawing you do in autocad, Billy. I think every boy ought to really think about taking a class or two in mechanical drawing or drafting. It has real applications throughout life.

  6. Kyle Bennett says:

    Architecture can be art, of course, but I don't see it as primary or even necessary. It's just like you can have an artful table, chair, or other such functional thing. But there's an inverse trade off on a number of levels, including cost.

    Art and engineering have this in common: they are successful to the extent that they are full integrations of a concept aimed at a particular purpose. Architecture is where art and engineering intersect, in that it's purpose is both functional and expressive.

    The tradeoff involved in "artsy" architecture comes from the architect striving for a self-conscious artistic expression primary to the functional purpose. It's not a tradeoff, it's a failure of integration. Most of the buildings at that link suffer from it.

    BTW, I'm posting this from my first Mac. I hadn't gotten one for so long in part because of this very thing. I saw them as too self-consciously artistic and assumed that that came at the cost of functionality. I was wrong.

    He says a film should be judged on what the film tries to do and not on what you think the film ought to try to do

    That's right in part, but the purpose sought is itself necessarily subject to judgment as well. Where a lot of critics fail is to judge the purpose not on it's validity and usefulness, but on it's congruence with their preferences.

    Just like those buildings might succeed in their purpose of being works of art first, but that purpose is itself not the proper purpose of a building.

  7. "Most of the buildings at that link suffer from it."

    I just can't for the life of me see that. Pretty much all those designs are pleasing to me — some more than others, of course ( I particularly like the big "screw").

    I look at it primarily from a business perspective, and in that sense, I think it's critical for us libertarians to differentiate works of art and architecture built with stolen money from those built with private financing (though nothing, anymore, is totally immune from some sort of state wrangling; so maybe we don't know what "free art or architecture might look like).

    I just think there's a market for what they're building and the rarity or oneness of the design makes it profitable to do.

  8. Which Mac did you get?

    You know, Bea and I were up in SF this weekend and we dropped by the two-story Apple retail outlet and sat in on a (free) presentation of iMoview, iWeb, and GarageBand. I was totally impressed, even though I already had a good idea of the capabilities. To see the funny geek (he was really good) throw together an impressive movie, publish it to iWeb, create a website, create some music,publish his photos to iWeb, and a bunch of other stuff in the space of 30 minutes was sumthin'.

  9. Kyle Bennett says:

    I just think there's a market for what they're building

    Sure, but that doesn't make it immune from judging by architectural standards. I don't begrudge those architects a minute building them and making all the money they can for it. I do object to them being held up as examples of great architecture. For the most part, they're not examples of form integrated with function, but form without relation to function. (The building in India is an exception to that, but seems to go too far the other way.)

    I got a used Mac Mini, with the old type processor and a fresh install of Leopard. It was cheap enough that I got it just to evaluate whether I like them enough to get an iMac in the future. What I'm finding after only a week or so is that when I start to do something on my Windows laptop, it usually goes quicker to switch to the Mac, install the needed software, and finish the job there. Last time I paid my bills, for instance, I woke up the laptop, switched to the Mac (which had been asleep as well), and was done before the laptop was finished waking up. Apple's attention to detail – and I mean functional detail, not just form – is pretty impressive.

    I can't wait to dig into XCode and Cocoa, the Automator, and the Bash shell. From what I've seen, it looks like I might be able to start loving writing code again. It's become quite a chore on Windows boxes.

    I saw Jobs' keynote video where he introduced the new software suite, and he did pretty much the same thing you saw. I have no interest in doing that stuff, but it still looked impressive.