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Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
I ask because far too many products made today are made for global markets and therefore there is a tendency reduce any signs of cultural identity to the bare minimum, in order to appeal to the maximum number of people. I would argue that this degenerate behaviour, because the difference and diversity found in cultural identity is surely what motivates people to travel to and visit other and different countries.
Frank John Snelling
Responses
 
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
That is a very interesting question.

We are in the age of heightened consumerism. We are supposedly creating a global culture around which to rally around a new form of identity; the global identity. The impossibilities associated with this have thrown the sub-cultures of the world into an identity crisis. Most people do not know what they want and who they are. Some are white in black skins while others are women with men's genitalia.

During the time when the world's sub-cultures were strong children grew up with a strong sense of what they want and who they are. Today, people mature much more late, that is, they get into a state of solidness and firmness of personality quite late in life, after they have spent a greater portion of their lives in a state of confusion defined by the shifting images of advertisements to consume.
Nyongesa Lemmy
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
To me `cultural identity` is an important element of anyone`s veiwpoint, because if you do not have any cultural identity which associates and connects you with some specific area or country; then you are simply one universally interchangeable body amongst billions of people rather than being one amongst thousands of people.

Therefore, `cultural identity` gives meaning and dignity to people, because they are not faceless numbers.
Frank John Snelling
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
One of the main drivers for cultural identity is actually globalisation. It depends on how you see the equation.
Bernard Mugwima
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
As we are debating this subject on ArchNet, then, it is reasonable to ask; what cultural identity in architecture is? Alternatively, what makes a new building or a new urban project achieves that quality which we call "cultural Identity"? Consequently, this question may lead to a number of sub-questions:

Is cultural identity achieved by the use of "historic" culturally related architectural elements to enrich the visual impact of buildings? Alternatively, can it be invented? Perhaps some new architectural innovations may invoke feelings of cultural identification among people! Moreover, is it the uses of building and their relation to the public realm may give them "cultural identity"?
Faisal Hamid
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Responding to Faisal Hamid,
A 'Cultural Identity'(in Architecture) is generated as a result of the following:
1.Availability of local materials, and
2.Custom food/living habits of the inhabitants.
I feel that blindly following the historic/traditional building concepts minus the usage would mean nothing and would not ideally be Traditional Architecture.
The later part of your question is a real point of debate 'Can it be invented?' I would say that it cannot as there would already be a well defined availability of local materials and livelihood habits of the Inhabitants of a particular region, which would govern their Architectural tradition.
Subhankar Nag
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Faisal and Subhankar, I would say it is possible to retain the uniqueness of cultural identity in architecture through a synthesis either of (a) traditional materials and techniques used in a modern design, or (b) modern materials and techniques used in a traditional design.

Therefore, by a careful mixture of the familiar and the new, this then lessens the shock of the new.
Frank John Snelling
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
I completely agree with you Frank.
Subhankar Nag
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
I would like to add, cultural identity in architecture could be emphasized through not only form and visual aspect, rather we can experience it through our experience and sensory as a human being. Smell, touch, sounds, light/shadow and so forth are aspects could create cultural identity of a building.
Mohammad Al-Salem
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Why don't we take some examples and discuss instead of attributing 'culture' to 'architecture' as a whole?
Climate, culture, religion has always been part and parcle of what was built. But now we have far more constraints
than those mentioned above. Consider Airports for example. "Big and Large" is the new trend. Factors like secutiry, logistics, accessibility are far more matter of concern than culture. Though culture is incorporated, it finds itself hanging on the walls or lying on the floors or sperad here and there in the form of artifacts.

When we talk about buildings of lesser sclae like insittutions, housings etc., climate and culture can play a far more dominant role because other factors like secutiy and logistics are a matter of lesser concern. This can again be debated if we consider the modern high rise gated community housing and 'global' institutions.
Sriraj Gokarakonda
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Sriraj, I would say that the important difference you have pointed out is the difference in the considerations in design needed for (a) public buildings and (b) private buildings.

Public buildings of necessity must put the health, welfare and safety of the public above all other considerations. Unfortunately, in many cases this rationale has been used to excuse the use of a minimal veneer of cultural identity as a way of reducing costs; while at the same time missing the key point that the culture identity of a country is expressed through public buildings which have both enormous exposure and impact upon people.

Similarly, unfortunate (as Sriraj says) is the "Big and Large" [enormous empty space] phenomena of many modern public buildings, where culture is relegated to "hanging on walls or lying on floors, etc"

For myself, I would like to know why it is felt necessary to "rebrand" the image of a country or a city with some alien blot of a public building which disrepects both culture and people?
Frank John Snelling
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
I completely agree with you Frank. Public buildings carry that extra responsibility of representing the culture. But sometimes I feel that the people of those countries with strong Cultural identity (like India, China etc.) somehow started to see their own Culture as a thing of the past, irrelevant and eventually got bored of it. Good or bad, "Globalization" is the new mantra.

I noticed that people in the UK are fond of 'Tikka masala'and 'stir fry' dishes while Indians and Chinese are craving for Pizzas and pastas.
Sriraj Gokarakonda
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Sriraj, Globalisation is like the old proverb "The grass is always greener the other side of the fence." In other words, one`s own culture is so obvious and so taken for granted that a dash of the exotic adds spice (literally in the case of the UK where I have heard there are more Indian restaurants in the UK than there are in India).

I was taken to India in the early 1950s as a baby with my mother and sister, because my father was an electrical engineer working for the new Indian Government on the Bharkra Dam Hydro-electric scheme in the foothills of the Himalayas. We lived in Nangal township and I was fed on goat curry made by a Ghurka cook and thereafter we often had curry at home and the Madras curry my mother cooked was a favourite dish. :)

I mention the above, because the usual thing that was served up as curry in England in the 1960s was sickly sweet with raisins and I used to to pick these out of my food before eating.

Then in the 1970s and 1980s there was a boom in real Indian restaurants and curry (many different types of curry) is a firm favourite with many people.

The other point is that real Indian food became established in England, because of India having been a part of the British Empire and therefore the welcome custom of eating curries was brought back to England by those who worked all of their lives in India before retiring to England. Therefore curry was almost as traditional in England as `fish and chips`.
Frank John Snelling
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Small countries like Sri Lanka is visited today because what it has produced before globalisation, both art and architecture.
Premalal Felix Perera
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
If Architectural Identity belongs to the past then it is a history and history is only a story but identity is a living container of our life. therefore, architecture identity is not only some thing for our present life but what is coming next.
Hoshiar Nooraddin
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
The cultural identity of any people tends towards the complex rather than the simplex, because cultural identity is the difference between each system of thought created and generated by each specific language and the logic inherent within that language.

On the other hand globalisation is the trend towards Unnecessary Universal Uniformity (U3), a trend driven by the Modern Neo-colonialists who believe that (a) every human thinks the same way as every other human, then (b) every human culture must be the same as every other human culture and (c) therefore there is no need for cultural difference.

But (unnecessary) universal uniformity is only of use and profit to global mass manufacturers, global mass media and of course state tax collectors; because cultural difference tends to interfere with the mass invasions of universally uniform products. But as was pointed out above, Sri Lanka attracts visitors from other countries because of the unique quality of cultural difference and not because they want to drink coca-cola and eat fast food burgers in a hot climate.
Frank John Snelling
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
I completely agree with you Frank.I am a student of final year. Through my thesis I am trying to explore how we can possibly invoke cultural identity and revival through event based architecture. The general question that i come across is to elaborate the term 'Cultural Identity& its revival'. What you have discussed is definitely possible, where we incorporate climate and vernacular materials, but I personally feel that by injecting activities which some how link to the culture,we can add a new meaning to the already existing public spaces.These activities can be extempore or planned, happening on a temporary basis, so that the anticipation and the spirit doesn't diminish.
For my thesis, I have the benefit to design anything from scratch, but I am looking for sites that already have a significant value in the city, but are not used or approached by public(these include the heritage buildings as well). The idea is to revive their cultural significance. After all it is buildings like these which help us associate to the city we live in.
Sakina Hyder
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Sakina, perhaps you could do some research upon the localised "greening of New York" projects, where people living in wholly urban neighbourhoods have taken over waste ground, removed the rubbish which has been dumped over the years and created micro-gardens.

The problem with "globalisation" is that it always tends to favour the massive mass production methods of mega businesses at the expense of the smaller local businesses. And in the same way, city planners prefer to deal with big design and construction companies, because then they do not have to deal directly with the people who live and work in the city; and so the difference and diversity of small and local projects for the people in neighbourhoods tends to be squashed. Because when people become numbers rather than individuals; their humanity has been sliced and diced beyond recognition and put into endless rows of pigeon-holes.

The classic example of this inhumanity by numbers is the famous statistic of "2.4 children". How can you have 2.4 children? Do you saw a child in half? Such seemingly logical insanity reminds me of the ancient Greek myth of Procrustes. Procrustes would offer his bed for the night to travellers, but during the night he would measure the person against the length of the bed, and if they were too long he would saw off the overhanging parts, and if they were two short he would stretch them on a rack to fit the bed. In other words, this is the exact same thought process used when rounding up numbers, or rounding down numbers, or averaging numbers, or approximating numbers, because reality gets chopped up into very, very small pieces.
Frank John Snelling
Is cultural identity a thing of the past?
Sakina, I forgot to complete the phrase for the statistic "2.4 children", I meant to write "2.4 children per family".
Frank John Snelling
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