Dress Code Rethinking Architectures Civic Presence by wUT6Qui


CORE II STUDIO A400.002                                                    Spring 2011

Dress Code: Rethinking Architecture's Civic Presence
Karel Klein

To approach the question of what constitutes a civic architecture in contemporary
society, the studio engages a seldom-considered topic in contemporary
discourse—architectural decorum. Stated simply, the problem is that of
appropriate expression for a given situation and remains one of the oldest of
architectural topics. Instead of interpreting civic architecture as being affiliated
with its institutional functionality, the studio examines the civic condition as one of
atmosphere and sensibility where the complex network of values in our
contemporary society is made intuitive and immediate.

Though decorum is sometimes associated with ornamentation, the issues of
decorum comprehend many problems in the design of a building. To privilege
decorum is not to privilege visual representation but to foreground how a public
presence is established and interpreted. When we ask what is appropriate, we
are examining values. Spatial conditions, organizational relationships, sensory
atmospheres, presence on a site, all answer to judgments of propriety at some
point. The interest of the studio is to carefully consider and reconsider our
culture’s habits of perception and the expectations of built space commonly
brought to the civic arena.

As a way to consider notions of decorum more carefully, the studio will examine
the world of fashion. It has often been said that how we dress is a reflection of
who we think we are. But more accurately, how we dress is always tied to an
idea of who we think we are for a particular situation. Further, it is in the world of
fashion that the complexities of our culture is immediately grasped. No longer do
we have any reliable dress code that can be understood as appropriate for every
occasion. The individual in today’s world is a complex amalgam of affectations
that unfold in an ever more public arena. We are exposed like never before. And
things being the way they are, it seems silly for architecture to assume that there
is a universal dress code.

The studio is in search of ways to dress a building for a public event, and
understands this as a problem full of complexities and contradictions.

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