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New Urbanism and Style


Mount Laurel
by Duany & Plater-Zyberk
(Photo by Gary Justiss)

Revivalism and Modernism 


Gildenkwartier, Amersfoort, Holland
 200 New Apartments  near the Centre of Amersfoort
by Rob Krier and Christoph Kohl

"Being a historically modern construct, style is a by-product of an understanding of the world that dissects time into distinct and subsequently perceived, unique periods - it is a technological (manmade) way of compartmentalizating history. The artificial parenthesis placed around certain periods in certain places by some historians are responsible for what we have been trained to know as styles - wether it be Greek style, Mission style, Tudor style, Mediterranean style, Charleston style...., the list is endless and grows ever more specific. When history is understood this way, two approaches to architectural practice ultimately result - revivalism and modernism.
It is these two attitudes that dominate current architectural practice. Stylistical revivalists, which is what many (not all) traditional architects are, copy these particular periods or rather the motifs from these periods with little understanding or consideration of their constructional (tectonic) or symbolic origin. Modernists reject these stylistic periods as being nothing but of passing historical interest, irrelevant to "today". In place of copying historic or regional styles they choose to "invent" personal styles."
Michael Mesko
 (Letter posted on Tradarch List, University of Miami)  


Contemporary Piazza in Den Haag, Holland
(Photo by Lucien Steil)

New Urbanism and Style


Traditional Town Building
by Lon Krier
"Choice or Fate"
(Andreas Papadakis Publisher)

"The New Urbanist debate breaks down into two opposing camps. On one side are the stylistic revivalists - those who encourage codifying style into their urban plans and on the other side are the modernists who suggest style is irrelevant and that any New Urbanist plan should allow for a healthy dose of modernist architecture in their communities - at the very minimum some "Frank Lloyd Wright Style" or some other "modernist lite style" sprinkled here and there.
The Revivalists, believing it to be the only way of guaranteeing good architecture, paralyze the practice of architectural design by limiting its expression to one or more collections of historical motifs (the Greek Revival model, the Victorian model, etc...). In this scenario the authority and the responsibility of the builder or architect is totally undermined. His / Her concern becomes less, -'How do I apply tradition to the circumstances of this client and context and thus make good urban space and enduring and appropriate architecture?'-, than -'Do I have enough acroteria and anthemion and baseless Doric to qualify as Greek?'-, or whatever motifs are necessary to achieve the prescribed style.


Modernist Townbuilding
by Leon Krier
"Choice and Fate"
(Andreas Papadakis Publisher)

The New Urbanists who carry the banner for modernist styles forget that the foremost underlying premise of the modernist approach assumes each building to be a idiosyncratic expression of the architect and his/her private ideas. Thus the idea that a building should be appropriate relative to its rank among other buildings is impossible since each modernist building is a self contained and closed system or language. Modernist architecture, incapable of making cities of discernable hierarchal legibility, is then quite contrary to the hierarchy New Urbanist plans go to great lengths to establish. New Urbanists have laudably distinguished in their plans some streets, spaces, sites, and buildings as more important than others. Modernist architecture in a traditional plan is oxymoronic."
Michael Mesko
(Letter posted on Tradarch List, University of Miami)


Rivierenburt, Courtyard Housing, Den Haag
by Rob Krier and Christopher Kohl

Architecture, Style and Type


Malugen  House, Rosemary Beach, Florida
by Eric Watson
(Photo by Eric Watson)

"If style, modernist or revivalist, leads to undesirable ends, then the usefulness of this attitude towards history should be questioned. One of the ways to rid style from current discourse is to simply remove the manmade parenthesis that currently surround historical periods, opening the way for a cross comparison of all traditional (and even some modernist) architecture.
When something very general through time reoccurs with undeniable frequency it can be identified as a type of "something" with many particular examples.
As architecture and city-building have always been concerned with four very general things: the way we build buildings, the content of buildings, how buildings relate to other buildings and spaces, and how buildings alter existing contexts - these general concerns can be identified as types.
Recognized as structural types, building types, urban types and types of modification, each can serve as a heading under which every particular example (regardless of time or context) can be classified. Understood this way the practice of architecture involves itself with the adaptation of appropriate particular examples (models) to contemporary circumstances and contexts.
Style becomes a non-issue, tradition is preserved, enlargened upon, and begun in places where it does not exist (suburbia for example)!
Michael Mesko
(Letter posted on Tradarch List, University of Miami)


Townhouse Le Parisien II, Esch/Alzette, Luxembourg
by Mulhern & Steil, Luxembourg
(Photo by Colum Mulhern)


Jefferson House, Almeerderhout, Amsterdam
by Scala Architects, Mieke Bosse & Peter Drijver,  Den Haag
(Photos by Scala)


Nieuw Terbregge, Rotterdam
by Scala Architecten, Mieke Bosse & Peter Drijver, Den Haag
(Photo by Scala) 

Style and Excellence 


Rail Road Avenue, North Augusta, South Carolina
Savannah Riverfront Development
by Dover Kohl, Architects and Planners 

"Style is not an art-historical fossil, nor a restrictive positivist concept of a modernist academia...It has been disqualified by the Modern Movement at the beginning of the XXth century; however the same ferocious 'Style' enemies found nothing better than 'International Style' to promote their 'styleless' works!
Style remains an unavoidable concept to define and evaluate any serious work of art. The obsession to reformulate its conceptual complexity into less controversial concepts and its elimination alltogether might just reduce our theoretical paraphernilia in the context of discussing, designing and describing architectural artifacts! 


Aerial View of  New Waterfront Quarter, Jupiter, Florida
by Chael & Cooper Architects & Dover Kohl, Architects and Planners
& Gentile-O'Mahoney Landscape Architects

 We might consider to qualify style as, - the support of coherence, consistence, syntax and formal elegance, - of sensitive tectonic discourse, - of compositional and proportional excellence, - of correct reflection of typological and morphological conditions and urban or landscape context, - of appropriate articulation of iconographical and artistical elements, - of just expression of character of program and hierarchy, - of refined expression of a sense of place, etc. within an architectural language...
If we also acknowledged architecture as an integral part of a popular, understandable and communicable artistical and urban culture - based on its historical traditions of tectonics, of representation and symbolism - , it might be possible to overcome the confusion associated to the concept of style, often misunderstood as a revivalism of historical styles, or as a replicative repetition of historic precedents. 


Industrial Design District, Coral Gables, Miami
View Along Bird Road
by Correa&Valle&Valle, Architects and Urbanists