FORM AND FUNCTION
Considering current environmental, economic and ecological conditions, should neither form or function be of primary concern, but of the surrounding environment and the impact we may cause upon it within our designs? by
Module AC 2.1
Considering current environmental, economic and ecological conditions, should neither form or function be of primary concern, but of the surrounding environment and the impact we may cause upon it within our designs? There are many questions regarding form and function, and many have attempted to provide an answer. Some of the most simplified and overused may be as such; Are the overall aesthetics the first and foremost indications to a buildings success? However, a design process is now known to consist of many other constituents, other than the basic “forms and functions”. One of the more contemporary and increasingly significant factors is that of environmental conditions. We, as designers, now have an additional pressure to ensure that all our decisions are intrinsically linked to sustainability. This in itself, affects form and function, individually as well as in their collaboration.
A well known and controversial piece designed by Zaha Hadid, that was actually her first built project, was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany. The building was constructed as a working fire station, from in situ concrete, and was to provide a fire service to the surrounding Vitra furniture manufacturing complex. However,shortly after moving in, the service was moved to another location, partly due to the lack of space for the fire trucks. It was rendered obsolete for a time after that, and is now a museum that houses the Vitra’s chair collection. This scenario is quite interesting, and clearly proves that buildings have to be transitional to completely succeed. (reference 1) I have visited a variety of buildings, which show quite opposing characteristics and provide contrasting atmospheres. Some have been outstandingly beautiful, some have been particularly intuitive. It is all very well having something extremely beautiful or engaging, but 100 years on, when no one can find a use for the building as it was created so awkwardly, is that building still beautiful? Considering current economic and ecological situations, we should be looking at reusing every source we have. So having a space that cannot be used constructively surely is a waste of those precious resources. No perfect building had been ever created, and I doubt that will ever happen. Some have attempted to create a set of rules or theories to help aid the process.; Le Corbusier’s 5 points of
architecture combines the theories of both form and function, linking them with valid reasoning. These rules are very basic and could be easily applied, but it would not allow the building to reflect its surroundings, work with its environment, and would sometimes create physical issues. When a building is viewed, depending on its size, its grandeur, its material choice, all those specifics demand a level of respect. Which are relative to aesthetics. However, if a viewer or user then went inside and it was crowded, unsuitably ventilated, dark, damp, whatever sense of respect it had would be dismissed, and they would more then likely not visit the space again. If that building was designed in a way that was immensely innovative and coped for all of the internal usage, and provided a place that was comfortable in every way, many would appreciate and compliment it, regardless of its exterior. One does not stand outside a building and simply stare at its exterior. It is to be utilised and employed. New examples of intuitive and applauded designs are those that consist of “passive” technologies. These types of buildings provide a way of ventilating, heating, cooling, energising themselves, either for a very low cost or for no cost at all. They utilise nature, and this benefits the users, the building, and the environment. Surely the most important element would be how the building connects with each individual, and how the user, quite simply, uses the building. If this can be completed using these “passive” systems, which would be reducing the risk of “sick building syndrome” at the same time, there is no reason why this should not at the least be considered in every design strategy. Sustainability is now an element that affects, or possibly determines, most successful design decisions. Previously, specifically in the Industrial Revolution, many new machines were created, which were operating on fossil fuels. There were no considerations towards the future of the machines, or of the resources that fuel them. Those decades of overuse have affected the way that we live today. Recycling is one of the foremost pressing matters in most governments and increasingly, households. The society of today have realised that if we continue to ignore what our habitat is telling us, our future generations are going to suffer. Trying to design with those implications in mind, with the intentions of creating a “beautiful” building however, is decidedly difficult. K2 apartments in Windsor, Australia, provide an example of a project that has focused on the sustainability and function primarily. But did the form suffer? The scheme offers a range of environmentally friendly solutions from it’s construction, to it’s preservation, such as ; installations of solar panels; grey water recycling; long lasting materials. Also, out of the 96 apartments, 49 have been made suitable for disabled users (reference 2). On paper, the apartment strategy seems very successful and works very well for all its occupants. However, the exterior elevations are possibly over complex, and may appear unfriendly. William McDonough created a set of Principles for the EXPO 2000 in Hannover Germany. They target sustainability, but also forces the creator to think past the immediate effects. If these principles were enforced on all design strategies, the aesthetics of the design may be affected, but if it has enabled a safe, carbon neutral building, surely this should not matter. As McDonough describes in rule 8 of the Hannover principles that Architects should not have to work around nature, should not see it an an inconvenience, but use it as inspiration. (reference 3) He also emphasizes the importance of using locally sourced products. This vernacular way of designing would almost definitely limit the designs of a building, but again, if it is allowing the planet to thrive, we should appreciate the positive implications of such a decision. We are currently experiencing an economical downfall, not just in the UK but around the world. If the cost of a construction goes up even by 1%, when the total estimations are millions, that 1% would undoubtably be a large sum. If a building is designed with consideration towards sustainability to a degree that would fit those principles set my McDonough, the overall costs would inevitably go down, not only the initial costs, but also running costs. It is every
architects responsibility to create a space that benefits not only the humans that use it, but the surrounding environment, the flora and fauna: the natural elements that allow us to live. Author Tracy Bhamra has stated that â€œgovernments, businesses and individuals have become increasingly aware of what we are doing, not only to the world, but also to each other. Human rights, sustainability and ethics are all of concern, whilst the relationship between national economies and poverty struggles to be resolved.â€? (reference 4) It is clear that depending on the function of the building, there are matters that may seem more pressing than the building being green, and that they should, without a doubt, be prioritised. Other considerations, however, should not be ignored. It is reasonable to suggest that a list could be created that would detail every technicality that the miscellaneous population would declare needs to be regarded when designing not only a building, but any particular representation, and that list would be ever-growing, but it is not reasonable to suggest that this would be practical. So in a seemingly rational world, an Architect will never be able to create a perfectly succinct and narratively robust building. There are different styles, methods, theories and work ethics that every architect operates. Some prefer to start from an initial form then manipulate the function around that, some work the other way around. There is no doubt that each method has created some of the most intriguing and outstanding pieces of architecture, but in some cases a building may lack a little of either. With the added pressure of ensuring that a building meets ever-growing building regulations and sustainability requirements, it may be that design has become so complicated and restricted that it can no longer be creative? The new generation of architects are going to be born into a way of work that demonstrates all of these capabilities, and will begin their training with everything integrated so that way of design becomes second nature. Would that result in the current generation being overshadowed by the skills of new graduates? The theory of recycling, reusing, simply using an environmentally friendly approach, has taken off only in the last couple of years. Many have come to realise that we are affecting the planet that we rely on and are taking steps to help prevent it. This is going to increase, governments all over the world are beginning to introduce systems to aid our environment, and with our surroundings adapting to these changes we, as Architects, known as those who shape our surroundings, should adapt too.
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Bibliography Books (Reference 1) Simon Unwin (2009). Analysing Architecture. Canada: Routledge. ISBN; 0415489288 (p167,168) (Reference 3) William McDonough and Michael Braungart (2003). The Hannover principles : design for sustainability. London: William McDonough & Michael Braungart. ISBN:1559636351 (Reference 4) Bhamra, T. & Lofthouse, V (2007). Design for Sustainability: A Practical Approach. London: Gower. ISBN 9780566087042 (Preface)
Websites (Reference 2) Information received from; http://www.designinc.com.au/projects/k2-apartments
Resources Below are indirectly referenced, but have influenced my writing greatly.
Books William McDonough and Michael Braungart (2003) Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. London: Rodale Press. ISBN 0865475873
Images All images provided have been personally sketched.
Considering current environmental, economic and ecological conditions, should neither form or function be of primary concern, but of the sur...