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In the contemporary society, architectural works should relate to the social condition that is critical in nature. Architectural designs through their relation with the work itself, site, as well as, historical and social context should aim at reflecting the social and economic condition of a given region. The criticality in this dimension is subject to architectural designs that exist in an autonomous moment. Hence, recognizing an autonomous moment in architecture is necessary as a perquisite of a critical architecture (Rendell 49). Architecture is a exceedingly complex discipline, having many interacting forces working on it. Architecture has many problems that cannot be solved technically due to many variables associated with it (Ballantyne 3). However, architecture can have certain simplicity, such as, visual simplicity. In spite of this, how building appear is one of the ways in which a building can impact on human life (Ballantyne 3). Over the past few decades, the concept of new urbanism emerged as a controversial alternative to conventional patterns in urban planning and development. This concept grew in popularity but received criticisms in planning practitioners and architectures, as well. The notion of new urbanism emerged as a vital alternative to the existing historical patterns of low-density land urban development. The concept of new urbanism has synthesized a large range of spatial patterns that are not necessary for a good urban design; in addition, it does not fit appropriately with planning objectives that include management of demographic growth patterns, urban revitalization, and environmental protection (Jencks and Kropf 19).
There is an urgent need to have a new style of critical architecture that can overcome criticism among traditional architect, particularly in developed countries. The style of architecture that had existed for years has a tradition of oppositional design. It is essential to have a new approach adopted in other regions in the world with opportunities to embrace the differences in regional economies. The previous models of architectural designs had many shortcomings.
Critics of Earlier Architectural Designs
The earlier generations of architectural designs were developed by notable figures like Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi. However, their efforts faced criticism by a notable Italian Marxist critic known as Manfredo Tafuri. The argument that Tafuri put forward was how to develop architectural designs that would help in improving the lives of ordinary people. This happened at a time when the capitalist system was exploitative. According to Tafuri, the modernist pioneers like Rem Koolhaas were full of delusions shrouded by false consciousness during World War II. The capitalists had a notion of channeling the resources of industrial capitalism towards a common goal. In addition, Tafuri also claimed that welfare of the pioneer architects of the western world were futile. These led to the argument that early pioneers of architecture were only adding miseries to the working class (Rendell 332). This dilemma encouraged Tafuri to engage into pure criticism by defining his task as being opposed to that of exposing ideological deception, more so, indicating the follies of anachronistic hopes in architectural design.
Tafuri’s criticism made many architects hit a raw nerve, especially those who were opposing the capitalist values but still believed in their role to solve social issues. As a result, this became a dilemma set by Tafuri, coupled by the self-satisfied confidence, as well as, a less determined architectural design of the welfare state architecture which was an institution controlled by the state. Tafuri’s criticism offered at best a separate symbol of critique instead of a critical architecture that could lead to changes to the lives of the ordinary people. These changes could possess meanings through radical aesthetics, as well as, a comprehensive spatial manipulation of the architectural designs or building programme. Koolhaas and Tschumi’s contributions to the earlier generation of architectural designs were thwarted. During the time, there were reactions against the complacency of the welfare state modernism, and the need for an essentially architectural discourse that could provide positive results to ordinary people. The role they played was of significant importance. The tactics of the early pioneers, Koolhaas and Tschumi, degenerated due to the dominant economic challenges that occurred due to capitalism. These forces were extremely powerful, and many people live miserable lives globally.
Koolhaas developed an identity of a typical plan known as Generic Cities’ that held a similar principle of spatial differentiation far from architecture to that of a global-capitalist and a consumerist city. His principle was not in accordance to the generative force, which was a significant source of a city’s aesthetics. His plans liberated the architectural space from some programmed hierarchies that had both usages and meanings. According to Koolhaas, the urban process was to be decentralization with an aim of freeing the city from traditionally clear spatial interrelations. He emphasized that both centralization and identity relate in the sense that a centre demands that the periphery should acknowledge and identify its centrality. Thus, in case a centre disappears the same would apply to the periphery. Koolhaas principle faced criticism because under the onslaught of modern structures and the historical, spatial categories, the hierarchies and the associated meanings would disappear into an undefined urban soup isolated from a restricted urban environment of the past and would lead to loss of identity. His design would render meaningless the artifacts that produce aesthetic value to the surrounding that produces local identity.
The decentralized, largely differentiated from the urban environment that results from these processes would lead to a new form of urbanization that may seem to be an endless and non-critical assemblage of the historical designs and the modern designs (Cherry 14). For instance, the size of a building may require a typical architectural design that may indicate architecture’s innovations. A modern urban plan requires new design in order to be legible and comprehensive. The traditional plan does not embody the connection between the intrinsic connections between Koohlaas “Generic City” principles, hence; does not accommodate the link between urban space, identity, as well as, the city form. Identity in Koohlaas’ Generic City faced criticism because of its floating signifier. However, it was realistic and dynamic to accommodate new needs.