Architectural Crisis: Technological Evolution and its Displacement of Society

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Architectural Crisis: Technological Evolution and its Displacement of Society
Connell, Kimberly
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Subjects / Keywords:
Architectural design ( jstor )
Buildings ( jstor )
Cities ( jstor )
Houses ( jstor )
Metaphysics ( jstor )
Objectivity ( jstor )
Ontological essence ( jstor )
Poetics ( jstor )
Sensory perception ( jstor )
Social evolution ( jstor )
Architecture, Modern
Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Modernism first began as a means to bridge the gap between art and technology, yet the modernist ambition to put the problem of dwelling on a scientific basis failed, just as the ambition of science to provide an authoritative interpretation of human life did. The result has been an architecture alienated from the reality of human habitation; consequently, at its most basic level, this mindset lead to a removal of responsibilities on occupants to understand or engage their surroundings devoid of the re-presentations and abstractions technology has generated, resulting in the ignoring of natural features to generate meaning in architectural form. This technological response lead to the destruction of "place" as understood by the proponents of phenomenology and its connection to locality. Architecture must ultimately reinforce the notion of interdependence between mind and body that provide our linkage to the world, while still engaging the technological aspects with society that can further accentuate the distinctiveness of place. The technological aspects of reality can begin to be engaged through forms of architectural expression and aesthetics, while the construct works as a holistic whole with the surrounding landscape. ( en )
General Note:
Awarded Bachelor of Design; Graduated May 8, 2012 summa cum laude. Major: Architecture
General Note:
Advisor(s): John Maze
General Note:
College/School: College of Design, Construction and Planning

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University of Florida
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Copyright Kimberly Connell. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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Architectural Crisis: Technological Evolution and its Displacement of Society Kimberly Conne ll Honors Thesis Submission 11 April 2012


While construction as a technological process is prosaic architecture is poetic, necessarily an 1 Alberto Perez Gomez For centuries architectural development was geared toward the expression of revere for an omnipotent deity or universally accepted mythology that grounded reality and understanding, solely, within the unreachable creator. Through this usage, architectural constructs habitually represented a physical embodiment o f the intangible ideals deeply ingrained within the social psyche of any given era. It was, however the growth of rational logic initially spurred by m inds such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche that allowed for the questioning, and the resulting exponential development, of the world in terms of the basic foundations for scientific and technolo gical production and research. This new era, Modernism, first began as a means to bridge the gap between beauty and reason, art and technology through the exclusion of individual experience and traditional styles in order to render a type of clarity based on abstract foundations that could be held as universally true. It developed, essentially, as a means through which to create a system of co nsistent methods that 2 Though the attempt to understand the world through the scientific method brought about many advancements, the modernist ambition to solve the meaning of dwellin g with a scientific basis rendered objects alienated from the reality of human habitation; objects devoid of any mythical reference or concrete ideal that could help to make sense of the actions of humans, seeking instead to solve 1 Alberto Perez in Architecture Theory since 1968 ed. K. Michael Hays. (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2000), 473. 2 e Greene, Boundary 2, vol. 4, no. 2 (1976), 348.


the problems of humanity through unprejudiced reason while casting them into an unknown and non relatable constructed reality. Perez Gomez described this new architectural practice as eprived of a legitim ate poetic content form had once b een a direct expression of lifestyle and beliefs and has of man rather than his culture. 3 and express the existence of particula information initially perceived. 4 The process of interpretation distinguishes the difference due to the tra nscendental value instilled within said objects The importance of this definition of through which it can be achieved. The act of building exists as a device to help create the dwell. This notion of dwelling relies upon a system of boundaries with specific characteristics that determine a plane of field in which exi st ence is meant to take place, which ultimately implies the domain man predominantly occupies and interacts within. Heidegger suggested the primary function of architecture is to 5 Buildings, by this definition, are constructed objects, which gather a world and allow for dwelling as they allow for one to remain in a place More 3 Alberto Perez Gomez Introduction to Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science 466 4 Journal of Nietzsche Studies no. 26 (2003), 41. 5 Christian Norberg Schulz Perspecta vol. 20 (1983), 67.


dir ectly, buildings deliberately define a place with specific features and bring these features into the view of occupants, effectively, establishing the world with a sense of poetic presence in the built environment; in other words, establishin g a sense of p lace in the world. provides occupants with an orientation in the physical realm. 6 In this sense, place does not solely rely upon the fact of its physical existence in the world, but on the connectedness with narrative, memory and ritual its connection with the establishment of human identity. Historically, the establishment of place was achieved through the placing of a building on a prominent site that had deep spiritual meaning, one such example being the archetypal Greek temple, the sacredness within the society, as it was meant to provide the divine a sense of presence in the world, making it a direct presentation of the divine spirit. Through this usage, the temple acted as a symbol through which the hidden character of a site was revealed; in addition, through its means of construction and relation to site, it functioned as a direct extension of the earth and the society it represented. 6


The Parthenon: From Antiquity to the Present (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 10. As Heidegger described it, the temple brought forth truth through the intertwined connection of the world it gathered and the setting of this world back into the context of the earth that which is directly relatable to man. 7 The Parthenon successfully brought into view the characteristics of the landscape surrounding it and acted as a direct link to the establishment of a human identity, as it allowed man to dwell in one spot. Moreover, the architectural decisions allowed for a world view constructed of concrete objects rather than abstractions of science that man was able t o relate to through the usage of proportions based on humanly form. With the growth of empirical thought, a system of belief was established that based knowledge on experience; however, this experience was only accepted if based on logical analysis, rath er than the aforementioned spiritual relation between body and built form. to dwell, and reduced the modern man to occupying arbitrary, accidental, space. Le Corbusier surmised that people in the modern age lived disconnected from their surroundings, as well as 7 Norberg Schulz 63.


each other, yet promoted that this movement could be corrected through technology. However, the pure geometrical forms and the efficiency of standa rdization provided by technology did little as a means to liberate man. Instead, the result was a further displacement due to the implicit nature of objectivity in designs proposed the obvious missing link between man and his surroundings caused by his ow n empirical thoughts that had once been established by transcendental value. Ignasi de Sola Morales defined values at the poi 8 Modernist architects entertained the idea that systems have an exact, logical form which should be easily obtained through the practicing of rational thinking and utilization of elementary through the construction of pure geometrical forms and colors, which were easily understood and explained through empiricism, presumably linking both science and art together As one such proponent, Le Corbusier, through the construction of his villas, attempted to realize his that our understanding could be satisfied through the engin 9 Though his villas were true testaments to the many cases, undermined the relation ship between construct and contextual surroundings. 8 Ignasi de Sola Morales Architecture Theory Since 1968 ed. K. M. Hays (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press 2000), 616. 9 Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture. ( London, Great Britain: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd., 1959 ), 8.


Essentially, his construction lacked any reference to the actual site, making architecture an object independent of place and thusly independent of society (see fig. 2). Figur Towards a New Architecture (London, Great Britain: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd., 1959), 220. Within his design for the modern city, Ville Radieuse, Corbusier further illustrated his al culture, which insists not so much on dwellings as on machines for 10 To make the city as plain and orderly as possible, Corbusier expertly fashioned forms that were exceptionally objective in their design in an attempt to purge his ideal city of all historical ties and meaning (see fig. 3). In short, his establishment of a tabula rasa within the city forced an occupant to attempt to derive greater meaning from the architectural form itself rather than through a gathering together of space, reference to the special character of site, or even culture, which succeeded, primarily, in the displacement of man due to the inability to garner a greater intrinsic value from anything presented. 10 JAE 29, no.1 (Sep. 1975), 14.


in RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections (Paris, 2011). Karsten Harries proposed that the problem of displacement stems from our inherent ds homogeneity the very basis for empiricism. 11 Even though techniques, the very astute position it has crafted allo ws people to shed any obligation to understand or engage what is occurring around them. The physical phenomena that once tied us to place are now replaced by a construct that lacks a distinguished boundary or shape; a realm which we spend an increasing am ount of time occupying the technological realm. With the loss of boundary necessary to define place, man is left in an arbitrary state of existence an infinite expanse of space with no definitions or distinctions. ith its increasing focus on abstraction and Technology supplied 11 Harries, 14.


the architect and engineer with the ability to obtain what was once deemed t he impossible; perception of time and space due to homogeneity incited by a reliance on functionalist and objecti ve thought processes. Modern financial hubs such as New York City and Hong Kong grew to their current their skylines are characterized by the myriad of skyscrapers budding from the ground stretching forth in an attempt to reach the elusive sky. Though vertical expansion is necessary to accommodate burgeoning populations and their resulting spatial requirements, the issue that arises in these cities is the relation of scale to the human and the further relation to context. that context plays no part in development. 12 However, follo wing this notion serves only to further the displacement of society in terms of a city that has no authenticity because architectural constructs do not capture the essence of the city. Instead, each building becomes a self referential object detached from its surroundings as well as the people it is meant to serve 13 The generic pattern of urbanization stemming from such thought is most apparent when examining the apartment buildings of both New York City and Hong Kong (see fig. 4). 12 S, M, L, XL (Monacelli Press, 1998), 502. 13 ( Monacelli Press 1978), 82.


Figure 4. Both cities possess numerous copies of buildings which are representations of an initial design that functioned chiefly as a machine the most economical approach to harboring as many people. More importantly, however, these buildings embody a lack of conn ection to the essence of what it means to dwell within their respective city they are unable to capture the spirit of the site which they occupy. The impact of a construct on the individual is linked to its contextual ties, something we as humans are able to relate to, yet the experience of place is diluted due to the insignificance of what has been constructed in these cities, the very buildings man is meant to dwell within. A city must adapt to the needs of its inhabitants or it stands to become a hollo w relic to an age long gone, rather than an urban center that continues to nurture the ideas of man. Therefore, it is in the modern city architecture has the greatest responsibility to once again take hold of the essence of what it means to dwell; to once again begin the comprehensive exploration of site and bind together constructed space and natural space while still respecting technological advancements. Simply, it remains the responsibility of the architect to ensure that spaces hold the potential of c onveying meaning and an inherent understanding of site in this society.


The challenge now is to fulfill the notion of architecture having a specific purpose to he wholeness of culture decide how to dwell in an age where the interconnectivity of cultures is promoted and the usage of the body as a way to measure the world no longer applie s. 14 Yet, in order for this to be achieved, both time and space must be shaped in such a way as to provide man a dwelling place, which ultimately must address an understanding and engagement with the entire body. Within Contemporary practice a growing numb er of architects are beginning to take interest once more in the construction of spaces focused on the art of dwelling rather than machines constructed for achieving a set goal. One such architect, Tadao Ando, focuses on the crafting of spaces that force awareness onto the inhabitants of their place in the world through his engagement with the deeper meaning within a site and culture a grounding of the project within its locality. e Parthenon in its establishment of a specific place in which man is meant to dwell by conveying the presence of its surroundings through perceivable architectural manifestations (see fig. 5) Through his careful sculpting of materials and spaces, Ando cr eates both a sense of juxtaposition and attunement between the built world and the environment, evoking within occupants a deeper sense of connection with the spirit of the site through the utilization of gagement in the world 15 14 Alberto Perez 2. 15 Alberto Perez

PAGE 12 Ultimately, the church becomes an architecture focused not on the presumed identification of a user and their needs, but instead individualizes the experience of the space based solely on the spiritual and tactile needs of specific persons architecture geared toward a more personal experience between occupant and built environment. In essence, the church occ existential and phenomenological selves, or, as Heidegger described, the church enables an 16 Th usly, built space becomes the reference system where knowledge is both produced and applied, a physical construct with which people are able to establish their identity. Another architect, Steven Holl, focuses on the reinterpretation of past works as a m eans of establishing meaning within a modern construction such as in his Linked Hy brid project in reinterpretation of the traditional Chinese 16 Linda R. Krause, review of by Christian Norberg Schulz Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians vol. 50, no. 2 (1991), 198.


courtyard house [their] heritage 17 Grouping the buildings around a central gathering space, though formal, creates the sense of community and interconnectedness that was experienced at a more intimate scale in the traditional hous e here, Holl created the opportunity for inhabitants to still experience the tight social fabric that had long defined older Chinese neighborhoods before being erased (see fig. 6) By linking to this historical memory, Holl not only embedded his design wi in addition to crafting 18 His respect for both the cultural memory o f community connections and his understanding of Chinese society allows for his architectural work to addressing the required need for functionalism and conve nience. 17 Alberto Perez Poies Subject vol. 3, no. 2 (1998), 3. 18 Intertwining: Selected Projects 1989 1995 (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998), 10.


A new building, naturally, both disrupts and reinvigorates the patterns of daily life for a n the time after construction, buildings take on the qualities of th e place 19 Architectural work is objectified on the basis of its intentions; the symbolic meaning projected onto it, whether by its author or audience, or the emotions the work begi ns to induce which legitimize it within a given context, serving to strengthen the connection between occupant and constructed world, absent of abstractions. The ultimate aim of architecture is to allow man to dwell poetically to engage and reinterpret th e hidden meaning of place and manifest it through architectural construction. Modernist thought has rendered a global sense of place as opposed to a local one, where the standardization of construction lead to a destruction of the metaphysical properties of each site, effectively, limiting the scope of architectural meaning to a superficial mask applied to a new construct. It is in this sense that emphasis must be placed on the engagement of technological aspects of reality through architectural expression and aesthetics, with the construct working in a responsive relationship with the surrounding landscape, and providing inhabitants with a legitimized symbol, absent of the abstractions that characterize modern society. I gnoring the natural featu res of a site simply leads to occupying a site rather than constructing a place suitable for its settings or the needs of its occupants, as shown in the countless skyscrapers that all bare the same floor plan or the Modernist box houses. Architecture must ultimately reinforce the notion of interdependence between mind and body that provide our linkage to the world, while still engaging the technological aspects associated with society that can further 19 Moshen Mostafavi and Leatherbarrow, David, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in T im e (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1993), 69 72.


accentuate the distinctiveness of place and cease the ac t of self displacement inherent in modern architectural construction. At its most basic level of understanding, architecture must allows for man to dwell. 20 With the interplay of associations generated from spatiality and materiality within a site, the architectural construct must ultimately become the embodiment of habitable place a space that resonates with the occupants for much longer and, ultimately, helps to esta blish identity. In essence, architecture must once again define an orientation in physicality while utilizing the metaphysical characteristics inherent in a site. 20 Rethinking Technology: A Reader in Architectural Theory eds. William W. Braham and Jonathan A. Hale (New York, New York: Routledge 2007), 15.


Analysis of technology and its relation to society


Upper Right: Study Section Sketches Upper Left: View of Exterior Podium and Tower Center: Progression of form with extractions from contextual stimuli and the ending result Bottom: Longitudinal Section of Tower and Podium


View of Podium and Tower