One could say that I hold conservative views about architecture. These views are based on the position that the needs of human beings, which the built environment is designed to serve, have not changed in any significant way in thousands of years. Specifically, it is difficult to imagine that the qualities of light and air, security, social cohesion, and metaphysical purpose which we require to live healthy lives and build meaningful cultures are really so different, or are changing so rapidly, that architecture needs to keep pace at a rate which eclipses itself every generation.
This assertion might seem bizarre in a world in the midst of environmental crisis. Surely, I do not advocate for an architecture that ignores this urgency. What I espouse is an architecture that respects the unavoidable fact that the capital investment in buildings has tremendous inertia. Simply put: buildings make bad prototypes. Choices made now will reverberate for decades, even lifetimes; the crisis we are experiencing is direct evidence of this fact.
While innovative designs and construction methods are warranted, even desired, they should be rooted in a careful study of previous successes and failures, and they should come in the form of measured, thoughtful decisions. There is little upside return on architectural risk save the admiration of other architects, which at the end of the day is worth very little. The ease with which slick images are manufactured and consumed means we must guard against this seduction even more.
While “architecture” might signify an ineffable quality that elevates a building beyond its quotidian foundations, there is no good architecture that is not first a good building. Somehow this tenet was forgotten at design schools, along with the incumbent responsibility of architects to design good buildings. The mandate for design is earned continuously through the respect of users and future users of the building—it is not, and cannot be, conferred by any other authority.