How to Rebuild Architecture Better

by Alison Laas and Dan Russoniello for Payette

After a recent internal Architecture Forum discussing the “Brutalist Legacy” of Boston, we discussed the merits of saving decaying buildings through restoration, renovation or if demolition is sometimes the best option. Inspired by that discussion and a recent op-ed in The New York Times, “How to Rebuild Architecture,” a couple of us put our thoughts down in ink.

From Alison Laas:

Listening, without agenda, bias or preconceptions, is a skill that every architect can work to improve.
Of course, as with every aspect of architecture, who we should listen to is a complex issue. The authors only highlight the limited scenario of the wealthy client hiring the starchitect and how the resulting architecture may not address the interests of a broader community. But the reality for many of our projects is who our client is and for whom we are designing is a much more complex and diverse group.

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From Dan Russoniello:
In their recent opinion piece, Steven Bingler and Martin Pedersen provide a range of examples to argue that the architecture profession is out of touch with the general public and the needs of building users. I have to agree with a good deal of Bingler and Pedersen’s arguments. I question some of their broader generalizations, however, including their supposition that in some better days past, architects were more in touch with the people. The authors’ argument focuses on the headline garnering works of a few architects who are pushing boundaries at the farthest edge — but there is a wide range of architectural practices working outside this narrow picture (both good and bad). Architects must push their clients — they hire us for our expertise, knowledge and sometimes our distinct (or conformist) design aesthetic; when architects are able to offer clients solutions they have not anticipated, these can at first seem radical. Following through with an engaged back and forth process, the architect and owner can, as a team, push solutions that are innovative not for the sake of innovation, but that emerge from the specificity and uniqueness of the established problem.

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