There’s a saying-”you know it when you see it”. This saying is our attempt to define something we know intuitively, but don’t precisely know how to define. That’s true with timeless architecture.
My quest for understanding what makes timeless architecture all began with a concrete wall. During my undergrad I would walk up a staircase that had concrete garden walls. They were simple in design, but old. Over 100 years old.
As I was studying landscape design I was very interested in garden walls and as I watched new concrete garden walls go up, they didn’t look the same as the old and seemed rather cheesy.
These new walls had stamped stone patterns in them. It all seemed very mechanized, contrived, and not very organic. I didn’t yet know the right questions to ask, but my mind was spinning around the idea of authenticity. I also took a couple years off during my undergrad to travel as a flight attendant with American Airlines. This also got my mind spinning as I spent night after night in different cities without a car.
That kind of immediate contrast I saw between cities showed me the difference architecture made. Cities are composed of streets, buildings, and open spaces. We’ll get into this in my Urbanism 101 series if you want to know how to actually do “smart growth”, but for our sake here, lets just say architectural character matters…..a lot. The discovery is all in asking the right questions. You’ll have your own story of discovery and my goal is to make this journey so intriguing that our collective aesthetic tastes will rise together above the adage-- that form follows function--- and we can find that form can be more than function, but rather- timeless beauty.
And a quick post-script: Some of you are asking me about how modern architecture fits into this. Since the passage of time is the true judge of architectural aesthetic sustainability, I don’t feel enough time has passed to give it an honest critique. I have my opinions, which I’ll share, but that discussion will begin with looking at the adjectives we use to describe different buildings and then look at different compositions relative to these principles. Let’s now look at the proper objectives of materials. Let's head on over to the next article, shall we?\