Is Architecture form or function or meaning?

Submitted by peter on Sat, 01/09/2021 - 17:33

When there is no news worth reporting, the media turn to art. Meaningless buildings are given made up meanings based on the journalist's imagination. Do buildings really have meaning or does the function give meaning, or perhaps the form?

The War Memorial in Canberra has meaning because it commemorates something important to many generations of Australians. If we avoid war for several generations, the meaning will be lost. The meaning has nothing to do with the form or function.

Part of the form allows the public display of many names. Lots of different forms would provide the same function.

Concrete is used to create odd shapes that are weird or interesting or both. Then there was the fashion to display the concrete itself instead of finishing the concrete with stone or some other equivalent of external wallpaper. The first time I visited England, I realised some of the most highly rated architecture in London used stone completely indistinguishable from concrete. Using real concrete would have given the builders more options for better form and function.

Many of the buildings in London have no meaning based on form or function as they are not used for what they were designed. Instead they are just fashionable addresses because they are close to something else. The buildings are from periods when many similar buildings were constructed. Often the best examples are pulled down, replaced, leaving inferior examples as "the best".

The exteriors might be nice but too squashed up against other buildings to enjoy. The interiors might have been an advance at the time but are now cramped and poorly lit, fitted with uncomfortable furniture designed for people unduly short as a result of malnutrition. If the buildings were not updated with modern airconditioning, they would still be breeding grounds for tuberculosis.

Sydney sees regular campaigns to save the "last remaining" example of an architectural style. I know some of those buildings. Few are worth keeping as good examples for future builders. There are several that should be kept behind barbed wire with big signs says "Please do not ever design like this again".

High ceilings were once popular because Australia is hot and high ceilings help, with plenty of space for efficient fans. Instead of promoting that good feature, the saviours of the old buildings highlight some annoying tiling or unnecessary columns. They promote the decoration instead of the useful features of the building.

Imagine promoting Marie Curie based on her hair style instead of her achievements? That is what some people do with old buildings, the architectural fashionistas.

Renovation shows demonstrate the complete hopelessness of many renovation promoters, interior designers, and cash-in-now architects/builders.

Look at the taps for an example. A recent show featured light happy houses. Except the judges tried to fit everything in to "Hamptoms style" or some other limitation. To make matters worse, they wanted the old style damaged by new fads. How can a style be Hampton when the most important visual items are something unrelated and out of place. Black taps are the biggest example.

You would think a judge would walk into a kitchen and turn on the tap. Test the flexibility of the drop down nozzle. Try out the spray alteration buttons. No, the judges are not interested in what works, just how it looks. The judges want everything to be a "statement piece".

You invite friends to dinner. You cook for hours then server a masterpiece. They ignore the food and point out the tap, saying it has the shiniest black paint they have every seen on a tap. Oooh!

They jump up and run over to the tap, while your main course goes cold. They swing the tap around, smashing the glass front of your wine cabinet because the judges insisted you install an oversized wine cabinet somewhere, anywhere, so long as it is a statement piece.

The wine bottles fall out onto the soft cork tiles and bounce a little without breaking. Oops, no such luck. The judges talked you into statement piece tiles make from granite mined on Mount Erubus, complete with shards of flight TE901 spiking up into your shoes. The bottles break.

The wine flows across the floor and splashes all over your organic Wollemi pine cupboards the judges talked you into not waxing because the bare pine is a statement. Replacing the stained pine will require another 20 years of waiting while new trees grow.

Unfortunately a guest slips on the glossy granite tiles, in an area where there are no aeroplane remnants, and splits her head open on the statement piece white Mount Vesuvius marble from Pompeii, formed from residents bones in AD 79. The edge is chipped. You will have to replace. Can you sue the estate of the deceased for damaging your benchtop?

Personally, I am happy when guests enjoy the food instead of the view of the air extractor over the cooktop.

Function is number one priority for me. Form follows on from function. The decorative finish is what ever produces the least distraction.

Meaning? If I do not notice the tools I use, that means they work to perfection. If I do not notice the structure I live in, it works to perfection. I am free to focus on the important things in life.