The Architectures Without Architects Cultural Studies Essay

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Thesis statement: Globalization has taken the minds of people on their thinking in cultural identity. Cultural identity which leads to the vernacular architecture was being misused by architects for the commercial purposes. Workmanship is valued above craftsmanship. Even though architects tried to modernize the vernacular architecture, still, it causes the loss of cultural identity in this era. So, how to be contemporary without losing any traditional value?

I. Introduction

A. Globalization in this era

B. Types of cultural processes in globalization

C. Loss of cultural identity in modern days: Cause, effect and case studies

D. The reasons for the loss of cultural identity

II. Body

A. Traditional architecture

1. Traditional architecture in society

B. Wrong purposes of the traditional architecture in nowadays

1. Commercial purposes

2. High technologies

C. Vernacular architecture

1. History of vernacular architecture in the past

a. Construction method

b. Symbolism

2. Effect: losing the traditional value

a. Workmanship is valued above craftsmanship

b. Reinvigorating tradition

i) Evoking the vernacular

c. Reinventing tradition

i) The search for new paradigms

d. Extending Tradition

i) Using the Vernacular in a Modified Manner

e. Reinterpreting Tradition

i) The Use of Contemporary Idioms

D. Effects after modernizing vernacular architecture

1. Loss of cultural identity

2. Architects care more about the aesthetic of the new form rather than the value behind it

E. Contemporary vernacular architecture

1. Traditions being challenged, transformed, resisted and invented.

F. Case studies

1. The Xiangshan Campus in Hangzhou, China, designed by Wang Shu architects

III. Conclusion

A. Importance of having cultural identity in this era



Table of contents.........................................................................................................................................................4


Traditional architecture in society.......................................................................................................................6


Works cited................................................................................................................................................................17


Globalization has taken the minds of people on their thinking in cultural identity in nowadays. Globalization does not consist of an interconnection of the whole planet by means of a network of communication. Globalization allows a massive and never-ending process of awareness from the peripheries to the cores, almost one half of the world's population lives today in urban environments. This situation creates multiple physical and mental displacements.

Globalization has been divided into two different cultural processes. Their relation forms a critical point in the expression of symbolic ability and a paradox that communicate with the era. On the other hand, it forms the moment during the growth of industrial capitalism, which is part of the extension of Europe and its culture since the Renaissance. This expansion has been one of the stories of the expansion of the world. The local western has become universal through the takeover of worldwide power. The idea of expansion culminated in an opposite perception, that of contraction: "The world becomes smaller day by day", and even a global village.

Western culture has been considered as the popular culture in the contemporary world. With the purpose of conversion and domination, it has been done, but implicitly meant derived admittance. If the requirement seeks to translate it to the other, others will use it for their own purposes, different ends, transforming the culture from within. Western culture has become a paradoxical, means for the verification of difference, and for the rearticulating the interest in postcolonial times.

Hence, globalization times are different at the same time. The continuation of an active culture has allowed the globalization of difference that opposed the local environment. This cultural globalization implies an interaction between the extended western culture and the cultural plurality of the world. If the first maintains its basic character, the others have taken advantage of its capacity for international broadcasting to supersede local frameworks.

The current cultural has been laid in this puzzle of movement and doubt. It becomes clearer that at this point, there is no reasonable return to the traditions. The issue is to build the contemporary from a plurality of experiences that are able to transform the culture.

People who tried to build the cultural architecture into this contemporary world, been always transforming, re-signify and use according to their visions and interests. The incorrect way is usually a process of originality, are now understood as a new creation of meaning.

Every large city today is a changing intersection of cultures. There are lots of people incorrectly reworking the western culture in their own perception. What we understood from the meaning of post modernity is, in a good way, the result of overlapping of all these opposing processes, they also decide a remarkable changing of identities, with complicated adjustments and turn it into a critical space to us. The boundary and culture have become the example of contemporary cultural methods, but other examples may have other chances to make it into a story of diversity, balancing the difference and pretense the conflict of interests.

Facing the globalization and power of the media which have been surpassed, the role of architecture in specific traditions has been questioned. Many architects are producing works that are merely "free floating signs", or what critic Michael Hays termed as:

"... purely abstract, technical signifiers without context which, volatilized by postmodern perceptual apparatuses (accustomed as they are to channel flipping and image sampling), now flow like vapor into what critics call the 'hyperspace' that consumer capital has constructed itself". (1993)

Despite the recognized homogenization, the declaration of particular cultural is in no way less powerful.

"Against the normative trend of the computer-networked world, local societies, territorially defined, must preserve their identities and build on their historical roots, regardless of their economic and functional dependence upon space flows". (As quoted in Manuel Castells, p.350, 1993)

Traditional architecture has been a result of people's basic needs and their indirect relationships to their society and environment. A specific desire for a return to the past is perhaps comprehensible during an era where the real worlds seem to purify into cyberspace. In the context of Asia, cautious architects are putting a total attention toward traditions and specifics of the locality with renewed vigor as it has become quite illusive during the last couple of decades.

Figure 1. Amanpuri, Phuket, ThailandMost of the modern tourism has a significant social outcome for nearly all societies. It is based on two contradictory phenomena which are first, global standardization of the culture of tourists and, second, the preservation of local ethnic groups and attractions for touristic consumption. Entrepreneurs and tour operators often use traditions and heritage, both authentic, and manufactured, for mass consumption, to attract the ever-increasing number of tourists. Resorts are precisely built to accomplish the need for tourists, being fundamentally invented, many of them are none controvertible, make use of the advantage in architectural, which are originated for their being as authentic as the vernacular. (Figure1)

The term vernacular architecture is commonly being used, but least understood in the region. Vernacular structures, which are quoted "architecture without architects" provide many basic lessons in the past. The way they built the indigenous shelters is depending on the size of family members, who shares some of the spaces, how food is being prepared and eaten, how people communicate, and many other cultural analysis that influence the layout and size of dwellings. The decoration of the shelters is also depending on the local customs and beliefs.

As the people built the shelters tend to be the person who will be living in there, the shelters will be perfectly made. The craftsmen also had gone through trials and errors while building it. It also shows how the craftsman skillfully used the local materials to build the shelters. Therefore, the local craftsman knew extremely well how to turn the raw materials into a shelter and knew the structural of the shelter that they built. The climate and their specific environmental setting are being well adapted for these indigenous dwellings too. Such dwellings reflect their society's gathering wisdom and collective images. Cosmological and religious values are being infused, social and political structures, sensibility and attitude towards time and space. Their inflexible forms and proportions, craftsmanship and decorations are symbolic and meaningful. They do not have aesthetic meanings; therefore, their generating principles are being taken out of any straining after originality.

In vernacular settlements, the architectural language is deeply anchored as tradition. The continuity of vernacular settings through systemized metaphor, materials and technology has convinced the tradition. Forms and symbolism are experimentally known and stable while change occurs in an accumulative manner.

The term tradition comes from the Latin verb "tradere", meaning to pass on to another. Tradition is mysterious and difficult to explain in a satisfactory way, although various attempts have been tried. Edward Shils sees it as:

". . . Anything which is transmitted or handed down from the past to the present. It makes no statement about what is handed down or in what particular combination. Whether it is a physical or a cultural construction, it says nothing about how long it has been handed down or in what manner, whether orally or in written form." (1981)

The critical aspect of all definitions of tradition means that it is something handed down or transmitted from one generation to the next. It also means the double process of preserving and communicating.

"Tradition in the obvious sense of a visible past inheritance can only be partly helpful, for reality today is different. The architect must find what is right for the present circumstances, and if he is sufficiently probing and profound he will make a valid addition to the stock of form. There is no place for passivism of for a bogus revivalist sentimentality." (As quoted in William Curtis, p.234, 1989)

Tradition is another expression of vernacular as the terms traditional and vernacular has also been used correspondingly. This is because the qualities that being an accomplice with tradition is also found in the vernacular.

Therefore, how do architects bring tradition into the contemporary vernacular architecture in this era? Currently, craftsmen are rarely creating buildings around the world. Traditional forms no longer represent how building is now being constructed. In traditional architecture, the logic of construction was visually apparent to everyone, architecture directly represented the material used and the method of construction employed. It simultaneously incorporated technical and significant norms. However, there transparent technologies are gradually being displaced by the evolution of material science. Quality is not being judged by the skill of fabrication, but more to the skill of installation. Workmanship is valued above craftsmanship. Architecture in nowadays, they have less response to the materials and they concerned more of the aesthetic shapes and forms.

In many parts of Asia, finely detailed works that apparently deduce their stenographic contents from vernacular sources are increasing quickly. The decadal of cultural authenticity are being challenged; it was because of their finely detailed craftsmanship and offers of luxury in an underestimate manner. Even though based on a traditionalist approach, they are not tasteless versions of skin-deep treatments of original typical examples. They are classified from the whimsical aggregation design of vernacular details, that kind of authentic reinvigoration of the qualities of traditional crafts. (Figure 2)

Figure 2. Novotel Benoa, Bali, Indonesia

The hidden history and the elaboration of myths and symbol within the wide range variety of multi- faceted traditions can be tricked artistically. Many practitioners have supported a way based on using elements of the past and combining them in new ways. Elements of the past have been combined with those from traditional source away apart from its cultural context. In the hands of a professional designer the results bring a new ability of their own, and introduce more variable into the equation, despite the controversial issue of validity, although the idea might seem to be disagreeing.

It must be kept in mind; however, there have been stopped in architectural traditions during the whole history. Architectural forms are not unchangeable; they have never remained indifferent as a pure culture. There have always been mixtures of originality and imported types. These linked series of precedents are part of the creative process of cross-fertilization. They have been spread out, mixed, and in the process, combination. It has also become a promising model for producing even more transformations. However, it can turn to be organized in traditional society's cultural processes and external forces tool have reached states. These paradigms were maintained for similarly long periods of time once it being organized. (Figure 3)

Figure 3. Banyan tree Maldives, Vabbinfaru Island, Maldives

A distinct current of works which seek out continuity with local traditions has become apparent in Asia in recent years. These projects either stimulate or repeat directly from forms and features of past sources. The past didn't confuse the architects. Instead, they are adding to it in a creative manner, while apparently holding on much of the earlier meaning. (Figure 4)

"There is nothing wrong with such manipulations: difficulties arise only if antiquarian reverence compels us to claim that we are reviving a wholly authentic past, the true version of bygone times that brooks no alternatives. Quite to the contrary, the utility of the past inheres in its many-sidedness, in being all things to all people. It is the flexibility, not the fixity, of the past that makes it so useful in enhancing our sense of ourselves: our interpretations of it alter according to the perspectives and needs of present and future moments." (As quoted in David Lowenthal, p. 184, 1993)

Figure 4. The Legian, Bali, Indonesia

Coming back from that kind of tradition of the pre-industrial era is being unusual for many architects. Some of them may not be accepting the unchangeable relation between the form and meaning. Even though they have tried to understand the tradition typology, they still have the way to change the original meanings. It has been a difficult way to recover the architectural tradition through the fundamentals from the past, that there is such a way for a new critical awareness and a definition of the meaning which belongs to the particular tradition.

Readjustment of the past is being thrown away, and expressive communication is being disregard. Instead, an invigorating modern idiom is being used. However, the buildings, which are being built this way, applied to the place and untapped history. It has been transformed in a refreshing way that there is a coincidental acceptance of the past and the present through an abstract way. (Figure 5)

Figure 5. Rimbun Dahlan, Kuang, Malaysia

The main idea behind the contemporary vernacular can be seen as an independent commitment to reveal the traditional unique way to consider the place and climate and combining these formal and symbolic identities into new aesthetic forms and connects with the contemporary realities and long-lasting value. Mostly architects in Asia have tried lots of many new ways to define the tradition into this era.

Only if, people know the tradition as a heritage, which is continually developing, made us able to find the perfect way to balance the regional and international identities. Architects need to consider which past principles are still appropriate for today's architecture and what is the best way to apply these to modern building requirements and current constructional methods. The main aim is innovation rather than reduplication.

A number of recent projects in Asia have been eminently successful in this respect. Examples of significant regionalist work in different parts of the world authenticate a high level collaboration between architects and the original craftsman. In Asia, this pool of skilled craftsmen is still relatively large. Therefore, each of these architects is following his or her own path, coming forth from their own personal philosophy, personality and sensibility, yet each is advisedly encouraging through his or her world, and originality supporting knowledge of the social as well as a respect for the original culture.

Tradition is thus likely to be subjected to change in the process of communication and acts of ownership, although main elements remain recognizable. The denial of the illustrative use of symbols does not imply a rejection of tradition. Architecture contributes to tradition in the process of continual transformation; Raymond Williams points out that what pass off as cultural traditions or the significant past are actually selective traditions.

"From a whole possible area of past and present, certain meanings and practices are chosen for emphasis; certain other meanings and practices are neglected and excluded... Some of the meanings and practices are reinterpreted diluted, to put into forms which support or at least do not contradict other elements within the effective dominant culture." (As quoted in Raymond Williams, p. 39, 1980)

Therefore, traditions are always challenged, transformed, resisted and invented.

An exquisite example could be found in Wang Shu's first project for the Xiangshan Campus, which is located in Hangzhou, China (Figure 6). Keeping his works locally, construction methods and the abilities of local craftsmen made Wang Shu expanding his enthusiastic understanding that allow his business to provide traditional materials and established plans as cultural recognition. Wang Shu is capable to avoid these staggering obstacles and prevent metaphor as a founder of form while foreign architects hold at meaning through ingenious metaphor. Wang Shu works on an optimistic sustainability, even though he was restrained by the construction workers were bring restrained and the inherited properties of materials, with a highlight on pedestrian-scale urbanism and an absolute appeal of history through the chosen materials and the adjustment of local vernacular strategies orderly.

The Xiangshan Campus in Hangzhou, China, is truly fascinating. The campus has often been defined as an understanding of Chinese calligraphy, with Phase One showing the geometric, standard form of the characters, and the more expressive Phase Two showing a freehand, cursive script. An exhaustively contemporary arrangement infused with the feeling of the traditional, made the whole campus has a unique impression with a limited material expression but limitless variety. What actually brings Wang Shu's work to tradition is the adjustment of the established approach, not the materials.

The campus was attributed from the traditional china courtyard residences. This traditional typology has begun from the basic relation of humans to the environment. The site plan has showed that lesser maximum daylight and cross-ventilation were allowed to enter. Each single building was surrounded around the main courtyard, made the distance between the opposite wings shorter and cutting down the footprint. The studios and classrooms are well insulated, place behind the suspicious corridors, these circulation spaces are protected from the wooden shitters. The open-ends courtyard faces many directions, alternatively enclosure the view of the nearby hill and the faces is typically being designed for the purpose of solar orientation.

The architecture unites the campus visually, through the limited set of materials and construction details and physically, through the multi-level circulation network that combines ground level pathways and elevated walkways. The architecture is being put in nontraditional order even though the material does combine traditional elements. The wooden shutters are allowed to maximize the height of the corridor. The contrast which showed the traditional and modern are the salvaged roof tiles, which are applied to large louvers, supported by steel frames, and applied over a simple, modern ribbon window or curtain wall, where these outsize steel louvers are applied to the classic modernist facades. This can be seen as an interweaving of the main styles of China in the past.

Figure 6. The Xiangshan Camopus, Hangzhou, China

In this era, people are also no longer using any local materials to construct their homes, people have been too dependence on the use of technology and science. This can be a break to a symbiotic relationship that had between the materials and architects and made the tradition of the materials being misused. Sometimes materials do not function as what we thought. The use of non local material also reduced the far away resources and a loss of energy that is being thrown out in the process of transferring the materials to the building site.

There is also a line that can be taken from the vernacular architects of the past and modern day architects. Vernacular architects were limited to the use of the materials that were available and they chose to get it locally. Architects also have the same limitation, not being based on geographic location, but on a building's budget.

Older theories of modernity have been a story that said time replaced space and universalization removed place, and the local particular characteristic of the pre-modern condition. People no longer made use of the modernization to take control of the time over space. We argued that this vernacular was a certain victim of spatial modernization. Instead, we suggest that, despite its absence of modernization theories, the vernacular lives a remarkably strong of modern ritual. After examining some of the contemporary vernacular sites and buildings, reality and also imagination show that they diffused the role of the vernacular in the modern. There is a danger of imbalance proportion against the fundamental problems spoken in the recent debate about modernity, space and vernacular architecture.

A modern vernacular would babble infinite problems of modernity. Acknowledging that space and a sense of space being disappeared during the modernization process is not difficult. We acknowledge that it is not the discovery of vernacular that makes it appealing, but the agreement of the liberty of the regional and global that show locality precisely and in an abstract way that can make into a new and more intriguing method of modernization,

Understanding the contemporary vernacular is beyond any doubt involved in doubt and uncertainty meaning. The globalization on vernacular is not treated restrictively. Explaining in detail how local and regional identities in the vernacular architecture are constructed within the context of the modern.

Work cited:

David Lowenthal, 1993, "What makes the past matter" in Companion to Contemporary Architecture; Thought, ed. Ben Farmer and Hentie Louw, London: Routledge, p. 184

Edward Shils, Tradition, Faber, London, 1981, p. 12

Manual Castells, The informational City, Blackwell, Oxford, 1993, p.350.

Michael Hays, "Frank Gehry and the Vitra Design Museum". In GSD News, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 1993.

Raymond Williams, Problems in Materialism and Culture, New Left Books, 1980, p. 39

William Curtis, on creativity, imagination and the Design Process. In Ismail Serageldin (ed.), Space for Freedom: The Search for Architectural Excellence in Muslim Societies, Butterworth Architecture, London, 1989, p.234