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Architecture in contemporary society

Architecture in Contemporary Society
Courtesy of Res Graphic Design

When people think of architecture, most think of rock star architects, like Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. People do not realize there are other elements to architecture, besides making gimmicky buildings. However, the nature of contemporary society requires a spectacle to be considered consequential.

People's interests are not with the built environment, but with media. Victor Hugo, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, expresses the printed word will kill architecture. This is very close to the truth. Today, people create and define their environment with cell phones, computers, television, and print; architecture is only a shell.

People at antique shops do not realize this, but Modernism has won. Modern architects’ cries for simplicity and clarity in design have been heard, and popular aesthetic sensibility has moved away from the ornate. Now, cost and budget are guiding the design and construction of buildings. Adam Smith’s invisible hand is leading architecture towards prefabrication and bare-bones utilitarianism. Though this may be best for people’s pocket books, it may not be best for society.

In any case, there are too many architects, and the number of available projects is too small for the pool of professionals. Architecture schools are pumping out architectural interns, but the jobs are not there, especially with the increasing influence of other disciplines in the industry. Sadly, there are more job postings for computer and network architecture than traditional architecture.

Perhaps architects’ future can be found in architecture’s past. In The Ten Books on Architecture, Vitruvius defines the three departments of architecture: the making of structures, time pieces, and machinery. Building is understood to the contemporary architect, but the description of time and the construction of apparatuses are new. Though these overlap with other occupations, revisiting Vitruvius’s departments of architecture may reinvigorate what has become a torpid profession.

As walls become paper-thin, architects need to find new ways to refine the human environment. Furthermore, architecture needs to evolve to meet the new needs of the contemporary world. After all, the architect elucidates the space of existence.