Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Contempt of Context -

I'm not sure anyone outside the architectural world really cares, but there is a great debate circulating regarding a notable British architect losing a major commission due to a letter from the Prince of Wales to the client (a prince of Qatar).

The site is called "Chelsea Barracks" located in Westminster.

The blueish triangle is the area to be redeveloped.

This was the proposal from Richard Rogers' firm.

This image is a sample building in the scheme.

So, what's wrong with that?...


here is what is around the area...

Chelsea Hospital

So, not too surprisingly, the new architect is a traditionalist and this is his proposal.

The melodrama continues...

Richard Rogers was knighted by the Queen for his architectural accomplishments. He is now Lord Rogers of Riverside.

He is a member of the House of Lords, more properly called "The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled".

Lord Rogers wants to abolish the monarchy...hmmmmmmmm....a man of privilege created by the monarchy system !!


But my issue is that he did not adequately respond to CONTEXT. Most "starchitects" don't. Consider Frank Gehry...

Here's the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in context.

Here's the model in Gehry's office.

check out the debate ;



Before the first sketch is made on any project large or small, designers, clients and the community as a whole need to ask basic questions about its impact:

How will it generate vibrant public life?

How will it honor its context in the community?

How will it create a community place and draw on local assets? (Cultural, ecological, historical, social, and economic)

How will it delight people, bring them together and enhance their lives?

The challenge in creating great cities for the future is enormous, yet critically important. Our attention needs to be focused on many levels of urban life: livability, local economies, community health, sustainability, civic engagement, and local self reliance. Good architecture and design, broadly defined, must be at the heart of all these efforts. When all of these goals are aligned, we’ll see a world-changing movement to repair the environment and improve living conditions for everyone living upon it.


there is a long tradition of not giving in to the existing context...remember Frank Lloyd Wright and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City??

Here is the building (on Fifth Avenue) with the surrounding buildings and Central Park in the foreground.

Here is the model in Frank Lloyd Wright's studio.

draw your own conclusions...

should architects consider and respond to the context that their site is in?


Palladio's Children -

"The architect was traditionally occupied with the monumental palace, villa or church. Yet, during the past century, architects became fully immersed in the entirety of the field. This signaled a fundamental and unprecedented shift. The demands of the everyday environment are vastly different from what is required to create the extraordinary. Nevertheless, the profession's self-image, publications and ways of working still cling to its roots in monumental architecture."

N. J. Habraken

Professor Emeritus, Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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