We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us


Introducing his ‘Mythic Modern’ approach to architecture, Travis Price declares:

“A void permeates today’s architectural landscape. Economies of scale ignore the scale of the spirit. The result is an architecture that promulgates isolation and homogeneity.” (p.20)

Churchill’s comment that “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” takes on new meaning when we see so many buildings that are shaped the same. Where does individuality reside? When militant homeowner communities impose homogeneity, the loss of identity is magnified. All that is left of self-expression is the color of the SUV in the driveway.” (p.20)

The greatest cost of the automobile-driven environment, however, is not the sprawl nor the ecological waste and excessive consumption: it is the toll of soullessness. Yet market reality cannot be ignored; so, within our economic constraints, what do we build now?” (p.20)

“Architects of vision are stuck daily with a Promethean curse. Each day they propose the possibilities for more authenticity, but daily their livers are devoured by the blinding path of standardized buildings demanded by the consumer, the government regulators, and the building moguls. The need for regeneration of authenticity goes beyond architecture: it permeates the superficial world of fashion, it permeates fine arts, it permeates music and almost every art form there is. Everything we do exists as an art form, even if badly conceived or executed.
One could always say, well, what’s so wrong about going to the mall? What’s so wrong about coming out to my house in McVille or McTown? What’s really so bad about a new high rise with neo-whatever banality pasted all over it? What’s the big hoopla? As the saying goes, “There’s nothing wrong with it, but it just ain’t right.” The subtle curse is that these soulless buildings are so seductively safe and easy to tolerate; that’s why their growth is so rampant.
Why do people make deliberate decisions to move to such an environment? When you distill it all down, it’s because they want a material, isolationist, safe world. That’s find, but very empty. It doesn’t have the layers that Rome, London, Kathmandu, Istanbul, downtown Boston, or old San Francisco have. Where you’ve got the palimpsest of change, you’ve got memory and meaning and metaphor, metaphor that rings out with layers of authenticity.” (p.24)

“Without redressing our growing definitions of authenticity, we can’t go much further; architecture has to be metaphorically reinvigorated. What I propose to call the Mythic Modern is the equilibrium of the earth and the spirit and the industrial revolution, a combination of three “lenses” I have come to call Stillness, Movement, and Nature.
Myth matters, industrial freedom matters, and the environment matters.” (p.30)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) Travis Price (c2006)The Archaeology of Tomorrow: Architecture and the Spirit of Place. Earth Aware: San Rafael, CA


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