Theory and Criticism
Criticising the historical product
How can the architect of theses days get benifit from criticising the historical product ? And what the main dimensions that should be analysed ?
Mohammed Othman
Criticising the historical product
Dear Mohammad,

The context of the creative society in which the architecture occurs seems to be the most logical starting place for analysis. To pick it apart from a modern point of view would be of secondery importance........ allowing it to see the benefit of its continuing service to a community.

From my personal perspective, great architecture is that which is both functional and aesthetic, particularly building where function is tertiary to design. Given that, as a rule, it has such an impact on the witness that they are in admiration of its holistic expression. It is both shelter and art in synthesis. It is also an expression - probably the ultimate of a civilization itself. Certainly it is on an urban scale the relic that we leave behind for others to critically look at on many levels.

Some questions that would guide
Why was it created?
Who created it? In many cultures and societies, early architects were also military engineers. What was the training and intent of the designer?
The crafts and labor - what motivated them? Were they free or slave? Captive or migrant? Indigenious or imported?
Who was the commissioner of the project?
How were similar structures and projects at the time created? Contrasting & comparing it to these both functionally and aesthetically could be very interesting as a subject in itself.
Its service life is probably different than contemporary construction. How did it last, what would the estimated hours for construction be at the time? How did that cosntruction use, adapt or develop a building technology? Is any of it applicable today? The bottom line has always somewhat controlled design and build.
On larger scale projects (urban development) was the overall scope to create a societal impact? How effective was it, and did it continue to impact after that societal structure evolved into something else?
Can it be reused, preserved, adapted, - or should it be?
Has it been respected by succeeding waves of people who lived alongside it? (abandoned, vandalized, used as salvage for later architectural projects or does it continue to serve)
Does the existing community continue to use it in its original manner?
How has it evolved with minor or major changes over time?

I would imagine that to examine and psychically deconstruct a past culture's accomplishments is akin to designing a physics experiment on a subatomic / particulate level. As soon as you attempt to understand it or analyze, you are somewhat corrupting the whole thing, because it has its own time and place - from which we are distinctly separate. Given that perspective, having a childs wide eyed view would be helpful at times.

Enjoy your examination of your chosed subject. It has an endless frontier.

Kindest Regards,
Eileen Webb


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