What is Architecture Under Development?
Before announcing my thoughts on this subject, I would like to state my hopes that by sharing this information on a public platform it will help to generate discussion and critique. I simply ask that the concepts I raise initially be received with an open mind, processed, and when refuted done through with example(s). I prefer to discuss evidence and things grounded in reality or real possibility rather than hypothetical propositions.
So what is implied by architecture under development? My first thought is it suggests the architectural profession being subsidiary to building development. That if all trades and disciplines involved in the activity of building realization were to play as entities within one corporate structure, development would hold the majority of voting rights within the stock of architecture. Some stock would be held by investment bankers, another percentage by market researchers, a significant number would be provided to the clients (typically tycoons of business), a small portion would be given to contractors, and at the end of the day the remaining stock would trickle down to architecture; leaving it with little say in how a building actually appears.
More often than not buildings come to the architect’s office trimmed down and encased within an envelope of what is financially feasible. The program has been established, the zoning has been researched, market placement has already been considered, and the buildings core values already set in place: it is either a return-on-investment based project, or design patronization. (Ranked in order of financial return, investment buildings attempt to decrease construction costs while maximizing rentable square footage, where as patronage buildings place greater value the some other form of return to justify a capital loss.)
In the midst of a recession and tight lending practices, design patronage is difficult to come by. Investment buildings typically offer much greater tangible incentives (such as an increased bank account) and allow for the potential to later construct design patronage work. Investment buildings act as a sustainable economic model, whereas design patronage quickly fails only to last until all capital has been spent.
Under this realization buildings and cities provide plenty of data on the current and historical local economic status of a region. The year built, materials used, common spaces, room layouts, relative proximity, all suggest something about the market conditions and financing behind the building itself. The building’s financial structure is designed prior to the architect taking control, it’s very economic foundation exists within the building’s DNA and becomes expressed physically.
Architecture under development is an observation on the professional design process. To help establish the notion that design occurs before the draftsman, that the economic structure is as much a determinate to a building’s massing as the load bearing structure itself. That real estate and market appeal are the agents that proceed the color swaths and carpet samples. And that architectural design is nothing less than a conglomeration of influences through a capitalist system which architecture must work within.
Design happens before the design. Lets become a part of that process.