I’ve been reading “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera, and in this book, he talks about Aesthetic intensions. When I’m reading, my thoughts usually swirl around to what types of projects I’m working on and inevitably the issues of aesthetics turn up. As we design projects or you read about a city planning approval for a project that you think is not what it can be this issue stays at the forefront of design issues everywhere.
Gothic cathedrals vs Renaissance piazzas, which is more aesthetically appealing? How about Beijing or New York? Forms in nature or manmade can be looked upon in different ways at different times. Do you like the stalagmites in a cavern or do you find them depressing? How about the shifting sands of a sand dune? What style of American homes do you like? I once heard an architect say he did not like the look and feel of a Falling Water type home. He appreciated the craftsmanship, but not the architecture. Was the design unintentional beauty or by design? What you like today can change later in your life. As you grow up many kids do not like their parents’ music, but as they get older, they come to appreciate some or all of what their parents used to listen too. Art is viewed from many perspectives and time lines. What one likes is not the final response in life. Life changes. Opinions change. Viewpoints change. It is best to keep an open mind and let your responses to aesthetics brew before you lock yourself into a single position.
Is Beauty by mistake? I believe some designers have the touch, they feel or see what can and should be. The idea, that the aesthetic tied to its functions and all practical requirement direct the design. I heard Richard Meir the Architect of the Getty Museum Complex say his design was affected by the 436 variances he needed because of the neighbors. He could have designed the museum complex around the wishes of the community and then not had to scapegoat the neighbors and be stuck with a design he himself said he was not as happy with as he could be. This might also be just the way life is in this day and age. Vision for what is important does change! When designing using Universal design the functions and support for a specific structure provides and covers youth through the aging process. This way all ages can appreciate and use that structure. Visuals change as one ages also.
Aesthetics can be tricky. In the book, they talk about “light” and “heavy”. This can be viewed as good or bad and is talked about in all the arts as positive and negative space. You can compare it to the Yin and Yang of life. One is not any better than the other is. They each just have their place. You can be at the right place at the right time and still not match up with what is going on around you. Being is what I am talking about! Each culture sees things from a different light. This applies to organic vs non-organic structures or nature all by itself. I do not think there is a right or wrong, but I enjoy the natural feel of things. I like that softer or organic touch to life. It softens and enriches my sole. It gives me peace. “Which is the richer look? It depends on what you are pushing for. Do you what the WOW or the supporting structure to feel appropriate to the function of the structure? Do you want the structure to stand out and scream SEE ME or do YOU want to be the center of attention? Is unintentional beauty richer and more varied than the excessively strict and composed beauty of human design? Is human design more organic? Do you feel like an alien in your own enclosures?
Honest design can match the aesthetic qualities of any structure. Bridges are bridges! If you have the population who can build custom then the structure can have the handmade look. If you have limited human capacity then the industrial look can be more cost effective and have the harder industrial aesthetic. The rich crowd do not need to work with their hands. They can devote themselves to the spirit. I do not see this in most cases. I see the industrial aesthetic being used for new construction to limit the costs for the labor and this increases the rich crowds’ individual wealth. This is how life has been throughout the ages. All these issues affect what a structure will look like. Organic qualities arise out of the slow and natural world of change. The process grows from within the Earth. You can feel it. The new structure flows with its uses and time.
The true value of aesthetics natural to all of construction is truly a human endeavor. Make your personal choice on your own path in life. Keep in mind you are part of a culture and are leaving a legacy for the next generations. What was once beautiful can change.