Part II: Less is a Bore?

If more is supposedly more… then I say less is a bore. Let me set the scene for my position on this:

The fathers of modern design might have had the best of intentions in fostering a standardized approach to construction, creating cheaper yet ‘qualitative’ post world war, post great depression cities. In a society where form supposedly followed function, the ‘opposing’ school of thought, post-modernity, announced modernism to be a monster dictating societal existence through its ideologies rather than reflecting truly as a mirror. Both references are made to Louis Henry Sullivan, a father of modernity.

A mere stylized approach to modernity in architecture is, still to this day, criticized for being uncontextual ignoring local climatic and social conditions. When ornament became a crime on a global scale, vast expanses of homogeneity could not be prevented.

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Approaching the Galerie – Neue Staatsgalerie |STUTTGART| James Stirling © Rikus de Kock

The global cultural shift from producers to consumers gave birth to individualism and autonomy allowing homogeneity to be replaced by eclectic continuity and pluralism. Post-modernity is said to be both the continuation and transcendence of modernity. James Stirling’s  Neue Staatgellerie in Stuttgart illustrates this quite clearly.

Some purists may find this hybrid approach offensive, as materials not being used in their true form imitate classic architecture, yet also introducing the contradiction of oversized, colourful handrails/balustrades/ornamental piping, (even as an architect I don’t know what it is) and curved glazed façades.

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Main Foyer – Neue Staatsgalerie |STUTTGART| James Stirling © Rikus de Kock

With the array of disharmony and ‘pretense’, the spatial qualities of both the interior and exterior still seemed to be carefully considered. The green interior vinyl ‘lego-like’ floor connects the different atrium to the galleries in a truly Corbusian manner using an extensive ‘promenade architectural’ ramp.

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View Corridor and “Architectural Promenade” – Neue Staatsgalerie |STUTTGART| James Stirling © Rikus de Kock

Connections with the city are created through playful over-exaggerated archetypal elements, and a veiled courtyard can be accessed by any public dweller.  The most frightening part of it all is; I enjoyed it.

Robert Venturi states “Disharmony that comes from circumstances that are valid has tension, poignancy, quality, and beauty.”

Coming out of the closet architecturally, I might as well own it. Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de La Vilette is another post-modern gem. Situated in the north of Paris, it felt completely deserted from tourists. It is a vast man-made natural landscape with a palimpsest of curved walkways (even secretive ones), and on grid rigid red pavilion type multi-functional buildings. It houses formalized theatre, a recently completed ‘debatable’ philharmonic concert hall and large-scale children’s playing apparatus’. There are so many contradictory elements, whether it be form, programme and scales of intimacy. It is completely accessible by all, and in the midst of the vast open space I could have personal private discussion.

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Vast Park, Red Pavillion Type Buildings and Philharmonie de Paris – Parc de La Villette |PARIS| Bernard Tschumi © Rikus de Kock

To bring ‘Las Vegas’ to paris Bassin de La Vilette, the largest manmade channel in paris, which also extends through Parc de La Vilette terminates in a replica of Villa Rotonda. That was quite unexpected.

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Villa Rotonda Pretense – Bassin de La Villette |PARIS| Bernard Tschumi © Rikus de Kock

Whether less is more; or less is a bore seems to only be relevant when applied in the public realm. The fact of the matter is both perspectives are needed… and both perspectives are way before my time. Post modernity has given society the coping method to live in the midst of the innumerable contradictions and juxtapositions we find ourselves in. By coping I am not suggesting perfecting whatsoever.

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Overlay of Architectural Elements – Parc de La Villette |PARIS| Bernard Tschumi © Rikus de Kock

In reality I have realized that as part of civil society, we cannot be producers or consumers any longer. We need to evolve into becoming active participators. If we were to live in a true democratic, fair and inclusive society, I really hope our architecture would be able to reflect that. The acceptance of diversity and the continual evolution of ideologies are required to make it work. And as for architecture – be mindful, they are spaces for people – all people. Localized vernacular architecture needs not remain the same but can also change as the times do, hopefully keeping its integrity in a spatial manner .