Since we are Students of the School of Building Arts I thought it might be appropriate to comment on January 10ths lecture by Jorge Silvetti.
Though Jorge talks about how much he prefers a site with previous buildings and doing research related to his projects, the result of this history and research appears to be aesthetic, applied to the exterior of a building to make the building pretty.
Take three of the projects he presented, the Suliman school of business, Qasr al Muwaiji in Abu Dhabi, and the NYU Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Progress. In the Suliman School of Business as well as at NYU the bulk of his research appears to be for the design of a rain screen, placed over the mostly glass structure, which would also form a “Facade”. This is not to discount the research done to resolve problems, like that of NYU where resolving how to symbolically represent a variety of religions without using traditional religious symbolism is important. Still the main product of this research is on the surface, a facade, a face. It may be repeated on the interior as a motif however it does not appear to influence building shape or design.
In Abu Dhabi instead if using history to inform a facade condition, the historical structure is presented as decoration. The mud building is experienced through glass, almost as if the empty space surrounded by mud fortifications was a painting. Even the water well, the functional assumption for the existence of the fortifications, is separated from visitors by a pane of glass underfoot. It is the history of the building which is important but it is used as decoration to entertain the visitor of the site.
This leads me to wonder is history just something applied to a building so that it is appealing to outsiders? What does it say about history when Architects like Silvetti use history, architectural or otherwise, as something attractive to look at? Should Historians find the result of research insulting when its greatest application is to facade design,a skin, the most physically shallow aspect of a building, or should we feel refreshed that the face buildings express to the general public are the richest in historical context?
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