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From the papers literature review and case studies there is clear indication that architecture should not be mimicked by passing trends and global aspirations of iconic recognition, rather architecture should aim at creating a harmonic relationship between the built-form, its contextual environment and global ideals of the western world. This chapter will indicate an analysis of the literature and provide recommendations which designers and planners need to consider in creating an architecture that is generated through its contextually specific aspects of a region.
It is suggested that architecture bound by its contextual elements generates respectable designs that impact positively on individual end-users in turn contributing to improved qualities of life and surrounding environments. The impact of western ideals and cultures through the process of globalization is causing domination and hegemony over developing or Third World countries. Global communications, economics, trends and other commercialization of culture are been implemented without consideration to the genius loci and critical regional aspects of a place. It tends to have repetitiveness with regards to the power of international corporations or the power of iconic architecture which overvalues uniqueness and individuality. An increased fascination today with perfection has created a desire for everything to fit an image, to be an icon. The respect and affection of places that cultivated hopes and dreams which are to be reminisced upon in the future are being lost. This is causing a loss of identity, culture and value systems of cities. However, as Robertson (1994) discussed, global forces must consider local particularities of place is a firm viewpoint for which this paper aimed. Giddens (1991) had argued that we live in a 'single world', implying that all forces, global and local should be considered as their elements are both pieces from one puzzle. Each one is to be measured and filtered, incorporating only the appropriate aspects into the planning of a building.
The literature review of various theorists has helped understand and propagate community involvement in architecture from a mere concept to a practical reality. It has indicated how participatory architecture can better serve the end-user. User involvement and participation in design developments concerning architectural built environments is not an elaborate idealized theory. They are formed due to the shortcomings of orthodox architectural approaches. The incorporation of a variety of facilities within a design, such as the KZNSA (chapter) comprising of an art gallery, curio shop and coffee shop supports this argument. The design productivity is enhanced by attracting a diverse group of people into the building, improving its performance and economics. Social sustainability feeds on local input of design ideas, building techniques and incorporation of local builders in enhancing the sense of community participation, ownership and belonging. Constitutional Court in Braamfontein () provided an example of this, as the public were incorporated from the start of the project through an 'open design competition' allowing the general public to enter freely. This was taken further as local materials and artwork were incorporated into the built form and displays, forming a strong sense of connection between the building and the regions unique character. For both, buildings and places, consulting and involving users and stakeholders in the design process fosters a sense of pride, local identity and ownership between the built-form and the public, contributing to community cohesion and reduction in crime.
There ought to be an exploration for a conservational interpretation of design which recognizes the realisms of the present scene. It should draw its inspiration from the environmental and traditional lessons of the vernacular, emphasising the necessity for a sustainable outlook for the future. This is based on the beliefs that, within the context of contemporary life, the sense of genius loci is irreplaceable in the modelling of the human environment. As discussed in chapter () regarding natural sustainability, there is clear indication that nature has immense knowledge from which architects and designers may acquire knowledge, further emphasised by the theoretical developments of biommimicry. Incorporating design structures which facilitate natural ventilation, inventive forms of shading, evaluate the buildings orientation, incorporate natural light and integrate local building materials will enhance the sustainability of a project. Providing energy saving techniques, reduction in costs for both, the construction process and the buildings operation period, which was examined and discussed in Chapter () regarding the Eastgate Shopping Complex.
Public buildings such as community centers need to foster social integrating and provide creative and flexible spaces allowing for a diverse group of users. This is seen in the design of the EpiCenter where the client and architect understood the needs of the public and created a building that is flexible, allowing for different activities in accordance with the user's needs. Designs with this in mind facilitate an effective, comfortable and satisfactory design within all sectors of the community. Proximity of civic buildings to public open spaces such as parks, squares and water features has great potential in the performance of a building. If this is taken into consideration during the design process, both the building and the public space may feed upon each other's facilities, adding vitality, new life and movement to each other.
There are several forces which shape vernacular forms; elements of nature, the culture and history unique to each region and period, the regions power of authority whose regulations impose a directorial structure on the landscape. These were created with no intention or visions of utopian places, they evolved from necessity, to form and solve practical human needs such as shelter, civic buildings and creating a livelihood from the land. Regional identity therefore can be recognised by the social and institutional linkages which bound people to a place and dictated a lifestyle to follow. To retain this identity, there needs to be stability and sense of investment within the community in the region.
Architecture which understands the character of a region has homogeneity in creating a coherent environment, strong identity and link to cultural aspects within the region such as its traditions, history, city forms and landscapes in developing what Norberg-Schulz describes as genius loci. This in turn aids in rejuvenating the site and its surrounding context thereby increasing property value, global recognition, new existence and meaning to the place. This however, should be done with strong background knowledge of the region as misinterpretation may lead to negative implications such as displacement of local communities and loss of identity.
Such as mixed used public buildings which may:
Increase rental values of a property
Enhance working environments, improving productivity
Positively affect the health and well-being of staff and residences.
Activity - places where the level of human activity is appropriate to the location and creates a reduced risk of crime and a sense of safety at all times. Different people use the same spaces in different ways and at different times. The public realm should be designed to be enjoyed by different cultural or age groups at the same time by providing complementary activities which prevent segregation or monocultures. The development of an evening economy has been a good way of diversifying uses and extending activity throughout the day and night. Theatres, cinemas, restaurants, bars, galleries and shops have all contributed to ensuring that an area does not become just a drinking culture area. This was also coupled with secure car parking, good public transport facilities and lighting.
Public spaces are not just empty voids. Typically, they are filled with both soft and hard landscape elements to help shape their character. What we put into our public spaces is just as important as the space itself.
Public art in Aachen, Germany, contributed to the city's unique identity as the fountains and sculptures depicted everyday life in Aachen by making historical references. Sponsorship of these artworks allowed other stakeholders, such as local businesses, to feel that they had a direct stake in the quality of the public environment. The result is a public space which has generated social benefits, such as, local identity and civic pride.
A public space network, with focal points coinciding with facilities, has a key role in helping the process of community building creating opportunities for social contact and making the place feel more secure.
Architecture like all art is never static but is under- going a continual process of change. This change is due not only to the developments of new needs, new materials, and new methods of construction but also to the desire, inherent in successive generations of man, to produce something better and different from that accomplished by the preceding generations, something which will outlast the short span of a lifetime and will remain as monuments for the generations to come. This desire for change, however, is offset and balanced to a great extent by an equally human desire to preserve tradition. Today architecture in the United States is passing through a period of transition from eclectic design to something new and different, thus creating a condition which has much in common with that which existed in
Italy in the fifteenth century when the architecture of the Middle Ages was changing to that of the Renaissance. Today, as then, changes in the character and style of architectural design occur slowly and constitute an evolution rather than a revolution.
Identity should not be imposed on architecture; rather identity should be a natural product of consciousness and deliberate search. It is a process of self-understanding and self-actualization. It relates the past to the future through a changing present. The question should not be about what we are but what we want to be.
It is, therefore, not just the use of appropriate materials or local building techniques, or the re-evaluation of traditional devices for cooling and ventilation which have to be preserved, it is the identity of a people which has to be re-established in order to overcome the exploitation and the cultural neo-colonialism which plays such a great role in contemporary Third World economics. There is no immediate hope for solutions of even the most urgent problems in the Third World architecture. It will probably take generations to overcome the existing obstacles which, beyond the physical, remain in the old line of colonial thinking.
Conclusions and Recommendations
This paper verified the importance of context in contemporary cities for new architecture by defining the impacts of globalization and the notions of critical regionalism in design. From the literature review, an understanding can be made that globalization can closely refer to 'New Modernism' in architecture. In globalization architecture, even though the product seems to be totally unfamiliar with the surrounding conditions in physical aspect, it could be resulted from the work of recreation or reinvention of current flow. The designs are aimed at creating excitement to the city becoming a new landmark of a new society. Large contemporary cities are expanding at rapid rates, and these new insertion of art can be seen as stimulants within its urban setting. However, though this method of designing disregards its context it attains its value in the process of inventing new 'sense of place'. It may be seen as revitalization for dead cities achieved by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Designs should not be predetermined by any passing trends, but should rather be influenced by their appropriate contextual response. It is clear that architecture demands harmony in the built form and at the same time requires modern functional requirements to be met. What creates a distortion within this process is that iconic and landmark buildings, designed for commercial and economic status which disregards local contextual aspects are sometimes the desired solution within a city, creating a great challenge for the architect to design a facility that will mesh with the existing urban fabric.
Nonetheless, this form of architecture needs to be created with delicate concern of its given site and identity of the place and a city cannot be bombarded by these globalized interventions. A city needs to be clearly defined with its own originality and possibility before having little transformation inside.
The overall conclusion of this paper could be summed up by 3 aspects:
The first aspect is realizing the significance of urban context in making new built environment. Our cities have a long history and cultural basis for many years. The way a city has developed is a significant factor for creating a new insertion.
The second aspect is to strengthen our local ability in designing major buildings in our cities. Public participation incorporates a sense of ownership, pride and community upliftment.
The third aspect is that people desire excitement in city which distinctive, innovative and creative architectural forms can provide. But certain architecture chasing to be only conspicuous, could become unpleasant in the city. There should be delicate, deep concerns on urban context before making something opposite to it. Public architecture which relates to the identity of a region forms icons which attract tourist through their distinct character and sense of place within the scheme.
How does on apply the principle of Critical Regionalism successfully with an unwavering stance on the issues that have been discussed? The world would not be left behind on the technology front. People will always want the latest and the best that technology has to offer in order to gain a better quality of life. They would also have beauty in their environment. It is true that modernism can be beautiful, but can it always be individual? Yet, with a change in attitude, the best can be a beautiful and a more sustainable alternative as well as a more contextual approach. Design needs to be about people. Boldly, it should be declared that there should be no more modernist boxes in places that yearn to celebrate exactly what they are about; personality and vibrancy of life.
Critical Regionalism can be seen as having basic principles, based on a
sensitive, thoughtful, and respectful design approach.
If globalisation continues to destroy local cultures and traditions, people will forget about them. So many South Africans today have been so influenced by Western culture, that they have almost forgotten what country they are living in. Architecture should respect culture, traditions, history, and context. Is our generation to be blamed for allowing local South African cultures, traditions, and history to be destroyed completely in the spread of mediochre western culture?