July 30, 2014
Why should Christians advocate for locatecture over starchitecture? Because as bad as universalism is as theology, it’s also terrible as design philosophy.
Frank Lloyd Wright plied his trade all over the U.S. and I'm rather glad he did.
Wright is an interesting case. His Imperial hotel was one of the finest buildings in Tokyo, with strong Japanese influences, and of course Falling Water is perhaps the best example of locatecture one can name. But late in his career, Wright wouldn't even visit sites he was asked to design for. He'd just say to send him a topographic survey and an aerial photo. While you might get a Frank Lloyd Wright building out of that process (the brand), you certainly wouldn't get a building that responds particularly well to the nature of the place. So Wright, in this discussion, kind of cuts both ways. Thanks for your comment!
I wrote a paper on Falling Water once. Interesting that he took what the family probably thought was a prime feature of the building site, the water falling along over the rocks, and cantilevered the house right out over the stream to block the view.
I hear the call and agree with it. It is much more attracting to visit a city and see it for its uniqueness. I recall going to Rome a few years back and being blown away by the Vatican, but cringed when I saw several roads lined with McDonald's, Burger King, and Starbucks signs.
But I also made a short pilgrimage to Bilbao to see Frank's Guggenheim because that is where it was built. I never would have considered Bilbao as a place to visit on my first and only trip to Spain without that work of art that houses works of art. At least I had heard that Frank's inspiration was in part derived from visiting the city and observing the centrality of the river to the city and how the multitude of silvery shiny fish wound its way down to the ocean. If that is true, then Frank was doing his job in this particular case. As an added benefit, I got to see the city itself, its great blend of ancient and modern, the eclectic series of bridges over the river, the fantastic food, and the surprisingly family friendly beaches to the north. It is one of my fondest vacation memories.
I hope that owners, tax payers, planners and designers can all attempt to heed your call to keep their cities unique in new building designs, but there are valid reasons to call on visionaries for leading the charge. Remember that the Hiram, king of Tyre, specifically sent Huram-abi to Solomon as a skilled man, who has understanding to help with the building of the temple. Not many craftsman have been named in scripture, but when the task is worthy, the caretakers of that task should be at equally worthy, right?
I was thinking about this post when I listened to a recent 99 percent invisible podcast: http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/duplitecture/
I'm interested in how hard we try to universalize things when maybe we should concentrate on the particular more often. That insight might translate to churches as well: don't try to be a bad imitation of some famous church, but be yourselves in your place instead.
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