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How does architecture work?

来源:经济日报-中国经济网 14:16, December 25, 2019 Source: Economic Daily-China Economic Net

My first up-close experience of architecture was in a high school visit to a revival-style chapel in the James I era of England: wooden arches, dark panelling, stained glass depicting a tragic story, and church-specific hardwood benches . The beautifully sculpted preaching platform is like a watchtower of a large ship, which overlooks us, the tireless children.

It is difficult to determine what factors have impressed the building. Of course, buildings that only meet the use function are not enough to achieve this goal. After all, all buildings exist to meet a specific function. Is it because the appearance is good? Although we rarely devote so much attention to architecture as we do with drama, books and paintings, it cannot be denied that architecture is indeed an art. Most buildings exist as a backdrop to our daily lives. In this context, people usually feel some scattered pieces of architecture, such as tall minarets in the distance, cast iron railings with complex fancy, and towering spaces in the waiting hall of the railway station. Sometimes it may be just a detail that gets people's attention. For example, a beautifully shaped door handle, a window framed by a beautiful scenery, or a rose pattern carved on a church's hardwood bench. We can't help but sigh: "Awesome! Someone really thought through these details!"

In addition to this familiar feeling, most people lack an overall concept of architecture in the process of experiencing architecture. So the question arises-where can we find this overall concept of architecture? In the architect's intentions and theories, or in the voice of architectural critics, or in pure aesthetic judgment, or In our own experience with architecture?

The answers given by the architects are usually unreliable, they are just to convince you, not to explain the problem. Critics' judgments are often biased. Architectural terminology also does not give a clear explanation.Whether it is the toothed decoration, internal corner arches or double curved lines in historical architecture, or the inexplicable post-deconstructionist terms of modern avant-garde, it cannot give a person satisfying answer. Of course, it is undeniable that all majors have their own terminology. The existence of television and movies has made people familiar with legal and medical terminology, but architects who rarely have the opportunity to appear on the big screen are difficult to inspire people. Whether it's the fictional Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, or the real Stanford White in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing They are all helpless.

Why is it important to understand architecture from a holistic concept? Because architecture is, to a large extent, a public art. Although the media has promoted the "star" architecture, architecture is not a personal worship, or at least it should not be a personal worship. The Gothic Cathedral was not built for architecture lovers or connoisseurs, but for people on the medieval streets. They can stare at those weird decorations, or be inspired by sculptures of devout saints, or marvel at the elaborate rose windows, and immerse themselves in the echoing hymns of the atrium of the church. A good building will convey to everyone the message the builder wants.

Experience building

What kind of architecture can be called real architecture? In the Middle Ages, the answer to this question is actually very simple: cathedrals, chapels, monasteries, and some public buildings can be called architecture, and the rest are only Can be called a building. Now, the scope of architecture has been broadened, and it is defined as a place that can provide human daily activities. This kind of place can be large or small, it can be very simple, it can be very luxurious, it can be very special, it can be very ordinary. Investigating its roots, this change is because we started to realize the spirit of architecture. This spirit exists in any building and is presented to everyone in a coherent visual language. As Mies Van der Rohe puts it: "Architecture begins the moment you carefully put two bricks together."

Architectural language is not a foreign language, you don't need a phrasebook or user guide to understand it. However, it is complicated because the building must meet many requirements before it can be realized, combining practicality and artistry. Architects need to consider multiple aspects at the same time, such as function and inspiration, construction and visual performance, as well as details and spatial effects. He must consider the long-term use and instant impression of the building, as well as its external and internal environment. Danish architect and planner Steen Eiler Rasmussen once wrote: "The architect is actually a theatrical producer, he sets the script for our lives. When this script was made When it happens, he is like a perfect host who makes guests comfortable and satisfied, and makes people feel that living with such a host is a very pleasant experience. "

This passage was written by Rasmussen in his classic book "Experiencing Architecture". This is a seemingly simple book. He also said in the book: "My purpose is to use every means to let everyone know what instrument the architect is playing, and to show you how wide the range of this instrument is, so as to awaken everyone to Perception of music. "As an author who has written many books about cities and urban history, and a friend of Karen Blixen, Rasmussen is clearly not a connoisseur of debate. He wrote in the book: "My purpose is not to tell people what is right, what is wrong, what is beautiful, and what is ugly." He has visited almost all the buildings mentioned in the book. At the same time, most of the photos in the book were taken by himself. The book Architectural Experience takes readers behind the scenes of the building, in other words, it reveals how the building works.

The reason why I know the book "Building Experience" is because of the recommendation of Norbert Schoenauer. Schonauer was my favorite teacher when I studied architecture at McGill University. He was a Hungarian post-war refugee who studied under Rasmussen at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen. This experience turned Schenau into a full Scandinavian humanist. When he taught me building techniques, such as plan drawing and design schemes, he always reminded me never to forget that architecture is the most important environment in human daily life.

When I started conceiving a reference book on the architectural experience, I followed in the footsteps of Rasmussen and Schnaul. Such reference books should reflect our daily experience of architecture, which is both practical and aesthetic. This book lingers between the two, sometimes emphasizing this and sometimes emphasizing that. I need to change the focus from time to time, such as zooming out to a small detail, or zooming into the overall environment where the building is located. I have always been dedicated to answering theoretical questions with concrete examples, or to explain James Wood's questions-asking questions from the critic's point of view, and giving the architect's answers. For example, what is the meaning behind a particular architectural form? How do the details in the building form the whole of the building? What is the reason why a building touches us?

Some readers have been searching for their favorite building, but this is futile. Just like Rasmussen, I usually limit myself to the buildings I visited, and those that touched me, so my building scope is not comprehensive. So in any case, this book is not a list of buildings and architects, but a list of ideas. My book is more like a record of my personal exploration experience, while Rasmussen is a firm modernist, and at the same time, he brings the sensitivity of functionalists to design. I have experienced the decline and revival of modernist architecture, that is, the change in form of modernist architecture. On my way forward, such changes have subverted a lot of things that I believed in when I was young. I see history as a gift, not a thing imposed on me. For example, I have found that many historians are more reliable than architectural thinkers. As a construction practitioner, I find it difficult to use the name of experiments to explain technical incompetence, or ignore functional deficiencies for the purity of art. Architecture is an applied art, and architects often get inspiration in the process of practice. I confess that I prefer architects who face this challenge, rather than those who confine themselves in the theoretical world or focus on personal expression.

Vertical aesthetics

There is an obvious omission in Architectural Experience. Rasmussen did not make any remarks on the most unique architectural vocabulary of the 20th century, skyscrapers, except for making a short, unexplained hint to Rockefeller Center, and calling it "a huge repetition." It was an unexpected oversight. It is undeniable that in Europe in 1959 there were few high-rise buildings, but he should at least mention the KBC Tower. This 26-storey Art Deco building in Antwerp is the first skyscraper in Europe. Or Rasmussen can mention the interesting Torre Velasca, a medieval-style high-rise building built in Milan after the war. Nor did he mention the skyscraper built in his hometown of Copenhagen, the Scandinavian Royal Hotel by Arne Jacobsen, the leader of Danish modernism.

Rasmussen was a visiting professor at MIT. During his teaching, he visited many places in the United States, including some American buildings mentioned in his book. But he has not visited the Lever House, which inspired Jacobson, or the most talked-about skyscraper of the 1950s, the Seagram Building designed by Mies Van der Rohe. (Seagram Building). Although Rasmussen prefers traditional modernist architecture, he is also a traditional urban planner. I have reason to believe that he did not mention these high-rise buildings that were well-known at the time because he himself did not support the urban form dominated by commercial high-rise buildings.

Today, our cities are full of high-rise buildings. Skyscrapers have become so common that we take them for granted, and it's easy to forget how unusual their structure is. This structure is designed to withstand wind and earthquakes, integrate environmental and communication systems, and quickly and efficiently transport hundreds of people into the air. Functionally speaking, there is nothing simpler than an office building or an apartment building. To put it plainly, a skyscraper is a stack of repeating floors around the core of an elevator.

But skyscrapers pose some tricky architectural issues. On the one hand, they are very large. You can take a step back and admire the Leaning Tower of Pisa or Big Ben, but not the skyscrapers. Architects often take photos with models designed by tall buildings: Frank Lloyd Wright once posed in front of a two-meter-high model of the San Francisco Call Building; Life magazine described it Mies van der Rohe stands in the middle of two models of the Chicago Lake Shore Drive Apartment, like the giants in Gulliver's Travels; and the cover photo of Time Magazine, Philip Johnson Johnson was like a proud father, holding a model of the AT & T Building. But real skyscrapers are too big to give people a complete experience. We usually perceive skyscrapers in two different ways: from a long distance, as part of the city's skyline; or closer, as a part of the street.

On the other hand, skyscrapers have a single architectural form. By convention, architects usually build a large building with different combinations of windows of different sizes, prominent bay windows, balconies, gables, corner towers, skylights and chimneys. However, high-rise office buildings are stacked from one floor to another, and there is no substantial change between floors. It takes time for the architect to find a satisfactory solution. In 1896, Chicago architect Louis Sullivan published a groundbreaking dissertation titled "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered". The paper was published 26 years after the first elevator office building, the 7-story Equitable Life Assurance Building in New York. The building looks like a Paris apartment being pulled up. Sullivan's vision of a skyscraper is a combination of technology and economy. Technical aspects refer to the application of elevators and steel structures. Economically refers to placing more rentable space in the building on a limited site.

In his article, Sullivan asked with a gorgeous prose-style tone: "For those buildings that are based on low-level and immortal passions, but also have high-level sensibility and civilization, how can we combine eternal competitiveness and affinity What about giving these uncreative, clumsy, rough, and rigid buildings? "The answer he gave, in short, was to divide high-rise buildings into different parts. The bottom two floors should be adequately decorated to visually echo the street; the upper part should fully demonstrate Sullivan's "form follows function" theory. He explained: "Besides that, in the repetitive part of the typical office floor, we got inspiration from separate units, each office unit needs a window with a window partition, and a window sill and lintel, so We don't have to worry about designing them all the same, because they are always the same. "

Sullivan also suggested that lofts, eaves or cornices should be placed on top of the building, and it was clear that the layers of office buildings were over. At the time of writing, Sullivan had already implemented his ideas in the plan of the St. Louis Wainwright Building. This 10-story red brick building with terracotta decoration is not what we imagine a standard skyscraper. Nevertheless, it is considered a model of modern high-rise office buildings. The rows of window walls continue uninterrupted from the bottom to the eaves on the roof, creating what Sullivan calls a "vertical aesthetic."

Sullivan's three-stage design concept based on the classical architectural order influenced the design of many later skyscrapers, including the Flatiron Building by Sullivan's colleague Daniel Burnham in Chicago. ). Sullivan's organic decoration is similar to European Art Nouveau, while Burnham favors historical examples. Take the Masonic Temple Building, designed by Burnham and John Root, as an example.It was once the tallest building in the world, and the tallest tower in the building is obviously the Tudor Dynasty. Period pitched roof. But their co-designed Rockery Building also includes Byzantine, Venetian and Romanesque ornamental motifs.

Gothic architecture was common in early skyscrapers such as the Woolworth Building in New York, such as Auckland's Cathedral and Chicago Tribune Tower. The vertical Gothic proportions and simplified decoration are tailor-made for high-rise buildings, mainly because they emphasize the vertical and vertical feel of the sky. Take the Chicago Tribune Tower, for example. The flying buttresses and minarets on top of it are designed according to the Butler Tower of Rouen Cathedral. Architect Raymond Hood in the commercial building later designed, although gradually reducing the decoration, but still retain a clear sense of vertical volume. The RCA building he designed at Rockefeller Center is a magnificent building like towering stalagmites, and it is still one of Manhattan's finest skyscrapers.

If the modern high-rise buildings are not strictly classified, they can still be divided into classical and Gothic. It depends on how these tall buildings handle the structure. Recall the Philadelphia Comcast Center, designed by Robert AM Stern. From a distance, the all-glass building looks like a tapered obelisk. The podium of the building faces the pedestrian square, and on the front is a high winter garden leading to the lobby. Stern was first known for its shingle-style houses and Georgian-style campus buildings, but the Comcast Center became a classic of modernism and inherited the Sullivan three-segment (crown-base -Axis).

Judging by the smooth glass walls of the Comcast Center, we have no way of knowing what is supporting the building. In fact, it is supported by a steel structure and a high-strength reinforced concrete core tube (this is a safety measure taken after the "September 11th" incident), while the world's largest tuned mass damper is installed on the top of the building. This is a water-filled pendulum that minimizes the swing of the building during windy weather. But these devices are hidden.

The head office of HSBC in Hong Kong, China is the opposite. Norman Foster revealed the core element in the design of the project. He placed the core tube part on the outside of the building, and the main structural components such as clusters of columns, huge trusses, and cross beams were also exposed. This is different from most skyscrapers in Hong Kong, China. Most of them have rigorous and solid architectural forms. The HSBC Headquarters is made up of several stages of retreat, giving the impression that the building is still under construction. According to British architecture critic Chris Abel: "In all the magic of structure and space, Gothic elements are much more common than classical elements. If the 'Medieval' office building, and architecture Neither the "flying buttresses" nor the "unfinished" exterior can clearly explain this view, then the towering atrium and translucent eastern-style windows can always fully reflect the popularity of the "Business Cathedral."

"Business Cathedral" is another name for Woolworth Building, designed by architect Cass Gilbert. Gilbert creatively incorporated gargoyle design elements in the lobby of the building. He did this to echo the characters in the building. The prototype of these gargoyles also includes himself, holding a slide rule in his hand; and Frank Woolworth, the rich man of the "5 and 10" store, counting coins. Gilbert's style is a bit lighter than Foster's, and Foster's rustic style has never been vague, but at least Eber's starting point for comparing Gothic and Classicism is correct. Like the medieval cathedral, this Hong Kong bank has earned a reputation for its architecture.

In the design of the New York Times Building, Renzo Piano realized some unusual ideas. He combines classicism and gothic. From a distance, the tall building seems to be a simple cross axis. This all-glass body is almost completely covered by a full sun visor, giving the building a strange and unreal appearance. However, when you experience the building from the perspective of the street, very subtle changes occur. From the cantilever to the steel bar glass canopy protruding above the sidewalk, to the exposed pillars and beams and the tension members crossing the corners, the New York Times Building displays all its curved structure members. Since the George Washington Bridge, Manhattan has no such structured buildings.

These three buildings are both the symbol of the enterprise and the office space. The Comcast Center building on a glass surface, smooth and calm like a computer chip, houses a high-tech communications company; the uniformly matt gray facade of HSBC's headquarters in Hong Kong, China, just like a banker's striped suit; New York The Times Building is the base of authoritative newspapers in the United States, and its architecture emphasizes open and transparent journalism. The symbolic meaning of these corporate buildings means that large commercial buildings are not the visual expression of the architect. Of course, Stern's interest in history, Foster's obsession with technology, and Piano's respect for craftsmanship all influenced their respective designs. But these buildings also tell a lot of stories about the enterprise itself, and even the social background where they were born. Speaking of the New York Times Tower, Piano said: "I personally like the idea that in this century, people are openly exploring the fragile sides of the earth and the environment. Breathing with the earth and the environment, fragility has become an emerging culture. Part of it. I think the quality of the New York Times Building should be light, vibrant, transparent, and intangible. "This is what makes architecture different, more interesting than sculpture or painting. Sometimes architecture can also be an expression of the "will of the time" that Mies van der Rohe once called.

These three skyscrapers also remind people that when the building responds to economic and cultural forces, it is dominated by the local economy and culture. They are built in specific cities-Philadelphia, Hong Kong, China, New York; they respond to the urban environment in which they are located; they are located in very different venues. Comcast Center is next to a Presbyterian church and faces a large square. The square is located south of the building, which is not accidental: the entrance of the building will be arranged as much as possible in a sunny place, so that the main facade will have the greatest advantage. The clear shadows and contrasts of the borders, as well as the sunny winter gardens in the centre of Comcast, illustrate this. The headquarters of HSBC in Hong Kong, China also faces a sculpture plaza, which is connected to the Kowloon Wharf, so the Foster-designed building occupies a very unique place in the city. From a distance, you can see it from a distance on the ferry's deck; then, as you walk through the park, you will see it from another perspective; finally, when you are on the square, again You will get a different experience. In contrast, Piano's New York Times building almost disappeared in the heart of Manhattan. The narrow view between the tall buildings on Eighth Avenue, or the narrower gap between Forty Street and Forty-First Street, makes our experience of this building a countless hasty glance.

These three skyscrapers show how different architects use similar building materials to express architecture. Comcast's all-glass surface gives the entire facade a sense of tension. Two types of glass, one with higher transparency and the other with lower transparency, jointly define this "obelisk". In contrast, through the glass wall of HSBC's headquarters in Hong Kong, China, you can clearly see the steel channels between the glass, where large and small structural components create a facade with rich levels. The all-glass New York Times building is covered by sun visors. These architects also treated the details completely differently. Stern's details are subtle and unobtrusive; Foster's details are smooth and precise, like a luxury car; Piano's details are precise, such as elaborate nuts and bolts.

We usually describe exciting new buildings with uniqueness and freshness. In fact, evaluating a building is groundbreaking, which is the highest form of praise for the building. It seems that architecture is just like fashion, and any reference to the past should be avoided. However, as Philip Johnson said: "You must not know anything about history." When facing the Comcast Center building, I couldn't help but think of the ancient Egyptian monument that it mimicked. When I first saw the headquarters of HSBC in Hong Kong, China, I thought of Victorian engineering and steel railway bridges. The New York Times Building reminds me of the nearby Seagram Building and how Piano changed the style of Mies' classic steel and glass by simply adding a sun visor. None of these three buildings can be defined as historicist buildings, but none can escape history.

reference book

This reference book is dedicated to helping people understand what architects do and how architecture works, both in terms of practicality and aesthetics. In this book, I describe the 10 basic elements involved in architecture, and how contemporary architects deal with them in different ways, or how to intentionally leave them alone.

The first three chapters of this book deal with the basic principles of architectural design. I first discussed how architecture expresses a single or very simple idea. But architecture is not just a product of rational creation, as Frank Lloyd Wright told Philip Johnson: "Why Philip, as an adult, built the building, but left them in the rain." Actually All buildings are left in the rain, that is to say, the buildings are part of the climate, geography, and specific locations. What the architects call setting plays a vital role in architectural design. However, some buildings fit well with the surrounding environment, while others seem a bit abrupt. Sometimes it is necessary to add buildings already in the environment. Equally important is the site, but the two are not exactly the same thing. The site influences the appearance of the building from a distance, the appearance of the building when approached, the perspective provided by the building, and the location where the sun shines in.

The middle three chapters of this book explore architects' construction techniques in all aspects. For most buildings, the solution for the site and its surroundings is usually reflected in the building's plane, which is also the main organizational tool for designers. An architectural work, no matter how deep it starts, will always be built. Even in the digital age, architecture still adheres to the reality of bricks and mortar. I also mention in the book the three basic elements of the existence of architecture: structure, skin and detail. For those in the non-construction industry, these seem to be purely technical issues that are determined by objective science, or at least by engineering. But in fact, these elements are as subjective and personal as the architect's sketches.

In the last three chapters of this book, I broadened the scope of the discussion. For most people, the architectural style is the most interesting and pleasing, as if it is a reward that people get when they appreciate architecture. However, for many architects, especially modernist architects, style is a very subtle theme. Sometimes they even deliberately avoid the word and more often deny it directly. Le Corbusier once said: "Style is like a feather on a woman's hat, and nothing more." However, as his own work shows, style is an important reflection of all successful architecture. History is an issue that architects always pay attention to, because buildings will exist for a long time, which means that new buildings are almost always accompanied by old buildings. In addition, the new design must also take into account the reason why the building has existed in a certain form for so long, so it has durable front and rear doors, upstairs and downstairs, indoors and outdoors. At the same time, there is a difference of opinion in the industry. Some people take history as an inspiration, and some people take it as a burden. There is also controversy in taste. Picasso called taste "the terrible thing ... the enemy of creativity", while Goethe wrote: "There is nothing more terrible than lack of taste imagination."

The way the building recalls the past, the materials used and the details are treated very differently, as I showed earlier when I discussed the three skyscrapers. We should be thankful that although there are many wrong design methods, there is no correct design method. I use the word "fortunately" because I encourage diversity in architecture. Nevertheless, architecture practitioners still need to create on a solid conceptual basis. Understanding this foundation is important because only by understanding it can you better appreciate architecture. I don't think that there is only one correct method of architectural design. As Rasmussen said, a certain method "may be right for one artist, and may be wrong for another artist".

The actual situation is inconsistent with the fierce debate, which makes today's construction world in trouble. At the turn of the century, the classical forms of music, painting, and literature all experienced decay, and the prosperity of art theory followed. Architecture has also tried to follow suit, producing architects whose articles are more well-known than their architectural works, and practitioners who have made lengthy and unattractive explanations of their work. However, unlike music, painting, and literature (which can exist entirely in imagination), architecture cannot be separated from the real world: the floor must be horizontal, the door must be open, and the stairs are the stairs. Building firmly rooted on the ground is not an academic discipline. Attempting to impose academic theory on the building is subject to irritating challenges from practice.

I do not have a grand theory, nor am I arguing about anything, let alone supporting any genre. Architecture, good architecture, is far from enough; I don't think it is necessary to create artificial divisions. In any case, I always believe that architecture is born from practice; if the theory does exist, it is also a hobby of scholars, not a necessity for practitioners. All architects, no matter what kind of ideology they preach, must pay attention to design, place, materials and construction. To put it better, all architects are pursuing a self-evident thing, that is quality. As Paul Cret said: "The essence of architecture is its quality." How to understand this essence is the problem that this book will explore.

Economic Daily-China Economic Net from "How to Understand Architecture" Zhejiang Education Press


(Responsible editor: Shi Lan)

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