Cory Fernandez Aggregated Assemblies Critical Essay From Object to Field
Function and Form: An Analysis of Stan Allen’s From Object to field The topics of “field conditions” and “logistic of context” are contemporary ideas of architecture and controversial as well. In the essay “From Object to Field” Stan Allen attempts to explain and validate key concepts of these design approaches, and how these approaches embody the capacity to resolve architectural formal and tectonic decisions, as well as the programmatic and functional concerns of architecture and urban design. Stan Allen argues that a top down formal solution to any design concern will leave nothing but a closed ended result and that a bottom up approach will prove to be more effective and open ended in the end. But the questionable aspect to Stan Allen’s claims is what is the actual positive effectiveness that this “field conditions” and “logistic of context” approach actually has on architecture. Allen advocates less formal control and design decisions in return of a more fluid composition of relating parts, but what seems to be contradictory is his essays focus on form. Although Allen claims that there should not be a formal solution to design concerns his essay falls short in offering benefits other than form. Since modernism, too often have architectural movements been so concerned with rejecting form and offering new form and are rarely birthed with focus on the cultural implications and the benefits of the new strategy. By specifically rejecting modernism for the epochs shortcoming’s in a strictly formal analysis, Allen neglects to consider the movement’s cultural effects and damages to society and the human persona and leans towards a movement of self-referential Architecture. Designing with “field conditions and contextual logic” may fairly well be able to offer new architectural formal strategies, but must not focus on just that but also be concerned with how designing in this method benefits the users, clients, and cultures they exist within. Modernism’s faults are not in the architecture’s formal strategy but in the neglecting to relate to people and context. Buildings and plaza’s of disproportional scale dwarfed the human persona. Object buildings unrelated to their surroundings and cultural context disregarded a places culture as a whole. Foreign materials shipped from far off places proved expensive and neglected the local communities resources both in materiality and in labor. We must learn from these faults and strategize solutions to all of these concerns and not merely focus on formal implications in order to create a new art form. Leave that for the artist, but as architects we have the ability to shape the world we live in and in doing so must consider the places we create and the people we affect. Allen also compared “field condition” strategies with the modularity ideas that define beauty of Classical Architecture. But one must remember the three duties of Architecture as written by Vitruvius as being, Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas; durability, function, and beauty. Durability and function are the priorities before beauty, the classic idea of function before form. Out of Vitruvius’s triad “function” is by far the most open to interpretation. Function entails more than simple usability but how a building functions in the setting, culture, and time it is set within. How a building functions as a place for religious worship, public gathering or domestic living, but what is important is that the building functions as a place for the culture.
Precedents of “field conditions” strategies to date seem to have neglected these cultural implications. The Water Cube for example was not built with cultural implications but rather a temporary over expensive spectacle supporting a temporary program, but now stands vacant and empty. Reuse after the Olympics was exchanged for an architectural statement. The Grotto Project by Aranda\Lasch is another project that completely disregards setting, context and cultural implications. The project barely creates space, that in no way relates to New York City or the people using it in exchange for a statement for the architect. The new strategy of “field conditions” is an interesting and opportunistic method of creating architecture. But we must not make the same mistakes as modernism and become basked in the “look what we can do” attitude. Stan Allen’s essay is discomforting with its focus on comparing only formal results. From the onset of a design strategy we must consider how we are benefitting the communities, clients, and users we are building for, and always remember function before form.