Theory and Criticism
Between traditional and contemporary architecture
How can we design a contemporary building without losing the sense of tradition?
Rifa'i Adini
Between traditional and contemporary architecture
Contemporary elements like e-support systems, etc., have to resonate with traditional local patterns.

These patterns can be derived from carefully studying the contemporary existing conditions (surroundings).

This formula, which extends the architectural soul to a new space and place, must be created by the architect.

For me, this can be only be achieved after I have properly evaluated the last two centuries of the local craft traditions.
Dushyant Nathwani
Between traditional and contemporary architecture
Rifa'i, I agree with Dushyant. No human-orientated or culture-orientated design ever represents "Nowhere, Nowhen".

Whereas, the designing of a building using modern materials with traditional form: Or, the designing of a building using traditional materials with modern form; retains the continuity of culture.

In this way, you have a blending of old and new, so that some design elements remain familiar and some unfamiliar.
Frank John Snelling
Between traditional and contemporary architecture
Hello people,

I'm doing my thesis, and my topic is a crafts and design institute in Uttaranchal, India. Basically, this institute is meant to teach the crafts of that area and will give a diploma degree to its students. I too wanted to go for contemporary architecture while at the same time, i want to have a tinge of traditional architecture. As already explained by Mr. Snelling and Mr. Dyushyant, I am basing my research on the local crafts of that place, but I am still not clear on this issue: how can I make my design contemporary without losing a sense of tradition? I hope you may be able to help me,
Chayanika Sharma
Between traditional and contemporary architecture
That may not be very easy to achieve, depending on the tradition in question.

In Africa, where I am from, we have s very particular interest in the preservation of our culture and heritage. Realistically, however, we are very welcoming of other diverse developments, especially in architectural technology.

The Ibos of Nigeria have a compound system of design which is carried out in the most modern trends in construction.

Contemporary buiding materials may be adopted, but in this case, the the style and tradition remains.

Styles change, tradition doesn't.

Oge Nnadi.
Oge Nnadi
Between traditional and contemporary architecture

Look at the dictionary definition for the word "skeuomorph". A quick net surf says that it "is essentially a decorative feature derived from an earlier structural feature."

I have looked this word up before and I recall 2 examples given of skeuomorphs:

(1) The ancient Greeks' original buildings were of wood, so when they built in stone, the shape was similar but the material was different.

(2) There are cooking pots from the Bronze Age made of bronze, but relief carved to imitate a woven basket.

As I said in my earlier entry, a way to design and build blending both old and new is, either to use new materials but old techniques or vice versa; use old materials and new techniques.

From what Oge says, in Nigeria they use traditional structural forms with new materials. This means that while the new materials are unfamiliar, the form is familiar and there is continuity of culture.

The whole point about tradition is that traditions naturally change and adapt as new materials and new techniques enter into a culture. The problem lies not with change itself, but with having too fast a rate of change.

The idea that people with traditional skills are made obsolete and useless by new technology is nonsense; and the reason is that the process of learning a skill is the same for any level of technology. Furthermore, the only real difference between hand-made goods and mass-manufactured goods is the factor of "universal interchangability".

I will get off my soap box now. :)))
Frank John Snelling
Between traditional and contemporary architecture
Thank you so much,

For your valuable suggestions, Mr. Sneeling and Oge, although I've not yet been able to get the meaning of the word "Skeuomorph".

But I'll look up in sme encyclopedias. Thank you so much, I'm sure this one would help me!

But I jst came across the NIFT institute Delhi by B.V. Doshi and it is said to be build on the principles of Ahemedabad old buildings; it has not used any of those old building materials, only the planning reflects the features of old traditions. The materials used are in perfect contrast to those used at that time: you can look for NIFT details in the Architect and Builder Nov, 2002 issue.

Anyways, thanks again!

Chayanika Sharma
Between traditional and contemporary architecture
Rifa'i et al,

I have a couple of thoughts based on what is traditional and its intent/processes/functionality versus
modern or contemporary which is based on evolving technologies replacing long standing labor / traditional craft practices.

What would happen if you gave lessons on modern engineering technologies to traditional labor / crafts people who actually do the field labor in construction? Most probably, they would morph what modern is to be inclusive of the soul of traditional building technologies / and architecture.

It is my personal experience that contemporary architecture is based on standardizing simplicity - the influence of technology to be a bit dumbed down so to speak. Traditional building has the centuries or millenium of exploring a process and refining it into sometimes elegant solutions that mask the engineering needs of construction.

My point is that there is a gap of availability and access to new technologies in many projects - slowing the evolution of processes making an open model of autonomously controlled technology by artisans and architects who work together to create architecture. As taught in the gross scale, these technologies in either software or machine producers do not address a market for fine machine 'craft' geared towards contemporary building / rehabilitation that addresses the ideas and concepts found in traditional building - which is highly adaptable.

If it were a less top down, technology driven model - the idea of 'contemporary' or 'modern' architecture would certainly be more intimate in the culturally sensitive detailing - and as a result less foreign in an established architectural environment or xenophobic in its negative impact of looking like it was just dropped from outerspace.

Maybe a judicious placement of timeless tradition elements could work - ie. a new cladding material or surface that flows over or within a building, bringing modern and traditional into an imaginative & appropriate synthesis.
The only advantage of contemporary / modern technologies is in the labor saving / cost impact on a building. If the pool of talented craftpeople had access - well, the results could be dramatic & effective. They would do more for less - and everyone would be winners in the process.
Eileen Webb


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