L'Arca International N° 135

March / April 2017

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New Humanism


Last century it was easy to identify different lines of experimentation and languages in the field of architectural design by matching various “isms” with different periods in time such as 20th century-ism, rationalism, brutalism, post-modernism, ecologism. Now that there are no longer any real structural and design constraints/restrictions, which, in the past, always resulted in fairly simple reproducible compositional geometric forms, anybody can invent any form or structure, mainly thanks to the use of computer programs, although there are, of course, still talented individuals who can design by hand.


The latest “ism” of our age, which conforms to what most contemporary architects are attempting in terms of innovation and experimentation, is “formalism” or “visiblism”, focusing on the exterior form of buildings in an ongoing attempt to create spectacularly bold situations, sometimes even challenging the laws of gravity. This stands in stark contrast to such traditional stylistic values as expressive and formal harmony.


The globalisation of knowledge and information, even in the realm of architecture, has resulted in an almost excessive desire to focus on external forms in lots of schools of architectural design, often overlooking aesthetics and the logical layout of interior living spaces, where all the relevant human activities unfold.


This is testified by all the great projects designed in the first decade of the 21st century, in both the East and West, with China leading the way in terms of bravery, constantly focusing on imagination and theatricality.


Now, after all these startling macro objects almost always detached from their setting (ranging from towers even 100 metres tall to amoebic, totally de-structured constructions) that have excited us and will continue to amaze us beyond our wildest imagination, I hope that some talented youngsters around the world will start considering the need to reinvent some kind of harmonious link between inhabited spaces, functional-playful objects, new technology and the psychophysical well-being of the people living, studying and working inside them. Even the more or less innovative design of the external form of buildings will find “just the right” stylistic balance in relation to the culture and customs of different nations, as opposed to current single-minded globalised thinking.


When architectural design gains a proper understanding of economics, sustainable building methods, relevant technology and scientific know-how, matter and nature will finally be able to develop the future stylistic concept of architectural “neo-humanism”.


Cesare Maria Casati