Baukulture ‑ A Global Challenge
One of my base beliefs about Baukultur is that the traditional building practices had high-quality Baukultur built into them, and that a big part of the problem with modern design has been the freedom afforded by modern materials to depart from these practices.
One problem with the desire to build in a traditional timeless way is that, actually, there has been no such thing. The accelerating change in the size of settlements over millennia required using the latest technology. Going vertical, fire safety, infrastructure, waste are problems stones and timber cannot solve.
We can add a political dimension (factory owners packing their workers into the cheapest possible housing nearby) and cultural ones (e.g., treatment of men versus women). Another issue is the transition from traditional symbolism – a church looks like a church – to modern constructions that avoid such symbolism.
Richard Buday states, “For thousands of years, architects were the world’s storytellers, making architecture a great book of humanity, shaping societies in ways today’s buildings do not. Humans are meaning-seeking animals … Until the Late Middle Ages, architecture was a dominant storytelling medium, which gave architects the persuasive power to change what people thought and what they did.” 3
“World Building,” as developed in designing settings for movies like Minority Report, may offer new clues for architecture by engaging multiple stakeholders to prototype a vision of ways that realize the technological, environmental, and economic aspirations of a project. By providing a “voice” to the stories, culture can be embedded in design.
We are living in a culture of extremely rapid and fundamental changes. The new technologies tend to distance us from the material, mental and social realities and eventually turn our life-world into entertainment and games. In my view, the mental task of architecture is to strengthen our reality sense and, at the same time, to defend the autonomy and authenticity of the human experience. From its very beginning, architecture has mediated between us humans and the world, but this essential mediating task has been all but lost. The architectural profession is turning into a service profession like engineering and lawyering, satisfying the desires of investors or the need of cultural institutions for memorable architectural images to serve purposes of visibility and identity. Architecture must mediate true experiences of the world, ourselves, and human existence.