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DISCUSSION PAPER SEPTEMBER 2016

NOTHING SEEMS DIFFERENT BUT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ROBERT IS A FOUNDING PARTNER OF GRAY PUKSAND. HIS DEEP COMMITMENT TO THE IMPORTANCE OF HIGH QUALITY, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES, AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOOD ORGANISATION STRUCTURES HAS BEEN INTEGRAL TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF GRAY PUKSAND BECOMING A MAJOR AUSTRALIAN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM.

Robert is deeply interested in the philosophy of architecture and understanding the rationale that will deliver a particular solution. Robert works across a variety of project types including master planning, commercial and retail projects. His view of design is international and his study of global trends in commercial, retail, health and mixed-use developments informs his project work. A past Victorian President of the Australian Institute of Architects, Robert championed the value of design to all levels of the community and government. Recognising the importance of urban design, in 2011 Robert established the Victorian Chapter Urban Design Committee. A regular contributor to design and general media, Robert’s industry involvement also includes conference presentations and participation in architectural exhibitions.

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DISCUSSION PAPER NOTHING SEEMS DIFFERENT BUT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

It often happens. You can wake up in the same room, same town, amongst the same people, and your relationship to and with these things can have changed overnight. Personal events, politics, religion, acts of war and epiphanies can all swiftly alter our relationship to the world around us. That is one of the wonders of the human condition; that the way we act is constituted by more than biological urges, but also driven by mental process. Our ability to act out our mental processes is key to the way we shape our world. The changes which can have the most powerful effect on us don’t need to be visible.

Another largely invisible event has been at work changing our mental settings, modifying our attitudes, needs and understanding of the society in which we live. That event is the advent of the digital era where the management of information is now key to the next major push forward for civilization. It’s changing the way we consider the physical environment, and although the realm of the digital world is primarily virtual, it is manifesting itself in establishing a new direction for architecture as well.

Over the best part of the last century, Modernism and the International Style have held sway. It’s through this period that the tremendous growth of urban centers has occurred in many places and so the International Style in all its variants is the overwhelming flavour of cities in the new world. These created environments have largely been driven by thinking about building and architecture in a particular way; a modernist view. A view that has remained largely unchallenged by architects and followed as the natural methodology to design and consider architecture. With the digital revolution comes a range of new issues such as those highlighted below, which will steer architecture along a distinctly different path and effectively create a new chapter in the lineage of architecture through history.

©2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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DISCUSSION PAPER NOTHING SEEMS DIFFERENT BUT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

MASLOW TO NOW

THE SELFACTUALIZATION IMPERATIVE THE 20TH CENTURY IS OFTEN CITED AS THAT PERIOD WHICH EMANCIPATED THE COMMON CLASSES. MORE THAN ANY OTHER EFFECT, THE DIGITAL ERA IS RESPONSIBLE FOR FURTHER EMPOWERMENT; THAT IS THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL AS DISTINCT TO A GROUP, AS THE CORE COMPONENT WITHIN SOCIETY.

Digital technology enables the individual to socialise, to seek answers, to communicate, to participate and act without geographical boundary. Concepts such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where self-actualization was a goal sought only after the fulfillment of Physiological, Safety, Love and Belonging, and Esteem needs, no longer reflects today’s culture where self-actualization, a statement of self, is as important as food. Architecture needs to respond in a similar way, where a focus on the individual and their experience is clearly inherent within the building program. Hopefully it will lead to a re-think of the architect-object nexus which has dominated the development of architecture for much of the past century.

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In a world increasingly at ease using temporary media to record the journey of culture, in an era of empowerment of the individual, the goal of physical edifice-making appears less relevant to the course that society appears headed. Maybe a more responsive role for architecture in this self-actualized society would be a focus on the creation of place and establishing environments which foster the lives of individuals within the communities that inhabit it.


THE DIMINISHMENT OF ORTHODOXY THE DEMOCRATISATION OF INFORMATION IS A KEY TO THE EMPOWERMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL.

VALIDITY

ORTHODOXY

No longer restrained within the domain or keeping of the Institution, multiple sources of knowledge and information are available to all, and through that knowledge comes empowerment. Multiple sources of information disseminate differing points of view, enabling the individual to choose their own path. The exposition of morally questionable activities of governments, big business and religious orders provide cause to question the ethics and thereby standing of these traditional pillars in our community.

The dominance of orthodoxy has been diminished. Consequently, architecture is less likely to be governed by convention and norms. Validation of architects’ works will come from a variety of sources and points of view, and a greater diversity of approaches to the development of architecture should ensue.

Š2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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DISCUSSION PAPER NOTHING SEEMS DIFFERENT BUT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

THE DOWNLOAD

SINGULARITY PREVIOUSLY, A BUILDING TYPE OR THE OEUVRE OF A PRACTICE EVOLVED OVER TIME. THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION HAS IMPACTED ON ALL PARTS OF THE PROCUREMENT OF ARCHITECTURE.

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Building systems, building materials, construction methodologies and building programs incorporating new ways to learn, live and work are changing the parameters for each project and in turn, are creating the requirement for a different architectural expression for every new assignment.

New buildings therefore, are a synthesis of current information and considerations; a download at a particular point in time, so the lineage of style will be replaced by greater diversity in those practices engaged with contemporary culture.


SELF ORGANISING SYSTEMS

ANTICIPATING THE FUTURE THROUGHOUT HISTORY, A CONTINUING DESIRE OF ARCHITECTS HAS BEEN TO DEVELOP RESPONSES RELEVANT TO THE CULTURE OF THEIR TIME, FOR ARCHITECTURE TO BE IN DIALOGUE WITH ITS CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY.

This desire continues to exist but it will become increasingly difficult for built architecture to be contemporaneous. The reason for this is the increasing speed of change in culture, in part, driven by the digital revolution. Current technologies will be obsolete within three years as greater data processing abilities reinvent our way of doing things and in turn, reinvent how we live. Buildings however, are governed by a different delivery method. The design process, funding and authority approvals all take time, let alone the building process which can take several years for a major project. In the end, a completed work may well be a representation of ideas, thoughts and objectives a decade old.

In order for architecture to remain contemporaneous with culture, we need to anticipate a future society’s needs during the design phase more than ever before. Not only do architects need to respond to a current brief, we also need to envisage opportunities for our architecture to positively engage with our society into the future and to create new environments that the populous never knew they needed, but nonetheless embrace. Now is the time for architects to adjust their gaze, to be less influenced by the legacy of the past and instead focus on future possibilities.

Š2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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DISCUSSION PAPER NOTHING SEEMS DIFFERENT BUT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

RECONSIDERING THE LIFECYCLE

REDUNDANCY WE HAVE ENTERED A PERIOD OF INTENTIONAL REDUNDANCY WHERE WE KNOW CURRENT PRODUCTS CANNOT BE UPGRADED, BUT WILL NEED TO BE REPLACED IN ORDER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NEW TECHNOLOGY.

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Ownership is changing too, where licensing with upgrading to a latest model or version is providing a new option for procurement. If we consider buildings to also be a product, it’s reasonable to suggest that similar themes will also extend through to the realm of architecture.

New non-resilient materials such as polystyrene, which is used extensively as an external cladding substrate, is further evidence of our community’s acceptance that architecture’s role is to fulfill the needs of now in a world where the future is uncertain and unpredictable.

It is true that architecture has helped provide a physical manifestation of our journey of civilization and buildings that are hundreds, even thousands of years old still exist today to help tell that story. But the notion that architecture needs to provide a legacy, or that buildings must have long lives is a romantic ideal and is out of step in our world which is undergoing change at a faster rate than ever before. With particular types of architecture such as retail or manufacturing, replacement rather than renewal is already a common strategy.

Architecture is still being built to last but in a culture where the expected life cycle of buildings is much shorter. Responsible decision making about componentry and materials may have less to do with long life cycle costing and more to do with issues such as demountability and recyclability. We plan for redundancy in buildings in an environment where replacement rather than renewal will become a more common fate for architecture.


20TH CENTURY MODERNISM

21ST CENTURY PROTAGANISM

The act of procession and ceremony was an important aspect of the layout of pre-Christian architecture. Oriental architecture such as pagodas seek to create a symbiosis between the form of the temple and heavenly sky, and it could be argued that encapsulating a holy space was the key consideration in the design of cathedrals. These humanist, romantic, spiritual ideas about the making of architecture were largely abandoned at the commencement of the 20th century.

The camera has been an impassive observer, typically distant and not engaged with the subject. This manner of recording architecture over the last 100 years has served to reinforce the notion of architecture as object, where our consideration of architecture is within a setting of detachment and where architecture is being viewed rather than inhabited.

PROTAGANISM THE WAY ARCHITECTS HAVE CONSIDERED ARCHITECTURE HAS NOT BEEN A CONSTANT, BUT HAS EVOLVED THROUGH PLACE AND OVER TIME.

In that period of increasingly rapid technological change, in a society delivering the emancipation of the common man, a more relevant new world needed to be created. In a more existentialist setting, celebrating the capacities of new industrialised materials and processes, architects embarked on the modernist ideal of “Manufacturing” architecture. Architecture became a ‘product’ of a design process. Mantras such as Corbusier’s “a house is a machine for living in” and Sullivan’s “form follows function” set the theme for the new era of objectivity between architect and building, and correspondingly a disassociation between architecture and the experience of being in it. These precepts of objectivity and disassociation are generally those with which architecture has been considered for the past 100 years. Our tools for disseminating architecture have largely served to reinforce these precepts. The camera and photograph have served as fundamental tools to assist with broadcasting architecture across the globe. Photographic images are best understood when capturing subject matter as an object and are markedly less successful in recording the experience of space.

The net result of this object creation practice in architecture is that the settings created in the 20th century are largely inert, providing not much more than a program of spaces and shelter. Our modernist view of architecture hasn’t enabled us to have expectations beyond this because to do so would run contrary to the ideal, the raison d’être of making architecture. Consequently, one of the unintended legacies of the 20th century is dehumanised buildings, neighbourhoods and cities. With the benefit of our separation to the 20th century, it’s appropriate that we question whether the creation of detached, inert environments is appropriate to the human condition. The Self-actualization Imperative wrought by the digital revolution creates new expectations of architecture. Architecture needs to evolve away from its place of detachment and instead become a protagonist in the physical world, assisting to create joy and satisfaction in the lives of its inhabitants. New tools will assist in being better able to design and describe this more experiential architecture. The ubiquitous photograph will be supplanted by virtual reality and other devices yet developed, to more effectively consider and extol the human experience in architecture.

©2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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DISCUSSION PAPER NOTHING SEEMS DIFFERENT BUT EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

ENGAGED NOT ESTRANGED

SUMMARY THE MODERNIST IDEAL HAS BEEN EXHAUSTED. THE MANNERISM OF OUR CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURAL MILIEU CONFIRMS THIS.

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Superficial facadism passed off as reinvention or reinterpretation and, worse still, the appropriation of motifs such as the rectangle, grid and block to generate or decorate an ersatz modernist design, all contribute to a hackneyed mix that defines the blancmange of current global architecture.

The digital revolution however, is providing exciting new opportunities for architecture such as greater freedom and variety in design, a focus on the occupants and their experience, harnessing data and research to develop more sophisticated solutions. For architects to take advantage of these 21st century opportunities we need to reconsider how and why we make architecture in this exciting world where nothing seems different, but everything has changed.


CONTACT MELBOURNE

3/577 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 t (03) 9221 0999 e melbourne@graypuksand.com.au

SYDNEY

1/156 Clarence Street, NSW 2000 t (02) 9247 9422 e sydney@graypuksand.com.au

BRISBANE

2/172 Robertson Street, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006 t (07) 3839 5600 e brisbane@graypuksand.com.au

©2016 GRAY PUKSAND

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Gray Puksand - Nothing Seems Different But Everything Has Changed  

Discussion Paper - Robert Puksand

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