Architecture creates Context

Architecture cannot be understood without some knowledge of the society it serves.

“CONTEXT AS AN INTEGRITY OF LOCAL FABRIC”, clinging to this theory a few presumptions could be proposed before dwelling into the topic,

  1. Context in present scenario is a global set of variables influenced by local flavours and methods.
  2. We are given a divine gift to create as we wish and not to conform but transform; this is the gift of the human mind.
  3. Architecture is a discipline through which one can to bring order to chaos.

The above being said let us consider the semantics of context: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.

With regard to architecture, context is on two different planes: physical and non – physical, Roads, surrounding buildings and land contours are physical planes while weather, local culture and even economic and political constraints.

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Fallingwater by F.L. Wright

All these factors bring about the need for a conformation to suit the surrounding fabric so that one’s habitat and spaces can easily integrate and merge without adversely affecting the overall scenery of a place. Agreed but this is not Architecture. The above process is called prototyping, from time immemorial man has been creating to suit his surroundings, rarely has he ventured out of his oyster to use his amazing ability to transform his physical surroundings. It is human nature to duplicate spaces that have been tried and tested and will not scar local environment, all he does is take an existing model and replicate it.

Buildings result from social needs and accommodate a variety of functions: economic, social, political, religious and cultural. Their size, appearance, location and form are governed not simply by physical factors like climate, material or topography, but by a society’s ideas, its form of economic and social organization, its distribution of resources, authorities and beliefs, values which prevail at any one period of time.

Typical Contextual elements:

History, Local Site, Cultural past, Continuity, Material

Architecture is a manifestation of the context. Buildings and settlements are the visible expression of the relative importance attached to different aspects of life.

As Rob Krier appropriately stated, “Each building in a town must be subordinate to the overall plan. That is its scale, building type; architectural vocabulary must harmonize with the existing architectural fabric. The existing conception of urban space must not be destroyed, but complimented by new buildings.”

Kenneth Frampton described context as means of creating an architecture which is neither a vacantly ‘international’ exercise in modern technology nor a ‘sentimental’ imitation of vernacular buildings. It is regionalist in the sense of not being internationalist and critical in the sense of not being a slavish imitation of older forms. As the photograph shows, the cultural character of the locality is part-Victorian and part-American. Almost turning its back on the city, the Opera House opens its sails to the harbor and wide world. So the design responds to the region more than to the locality.

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Projection mapping on Sydney Opera House

An architect as a disciple of architecture must be a module, a module that can use the infinite power of the mind to create something new and radical that will break the bonds of conformity. This revolutionary architecture completely independent of surrounding factors will create a context for growth and development around it. If you are worried that such an ideology will be adverse; you are wrong, a human mind will think like a human mind and not an alien mind, in the end it will consider basic human tendencies and practices so this context-creating architecture will not be an explosive and bizarre outcome.

Creative design only occurs within the infinitely variable contexts of order within chaos or chaos within order. Each and every culture, language, climate and environment is a complex and infinitely variable context within which any creative aesthetic occur. There is enough complexity to satisfy the need for any aesthetic.

In conclusion, architecture is a sublime art form within a discipline that can give an individual the power to create not just spaces but context that will affect the complete ideology of design. So ultimately architecture is what creates context and that which replicates the constraints of the surrounding environment and its factors is not architecture.

Ultimately the essential meaning of architecture lies in the nature of the connections a building or space creates—both internally, between its constituent parts, and externally, through its relationship to its place. These connections can be physical, temporal, or even spiritual. Ideally, all three are integrated into one effort.

Written: 26/10/2013

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