Popular/Commercial Architecture: The Continuing Art of Architecture as Visual Metaphors of Persuasion/Conviction
"In popular/commercial building, traditional concepts of architecture as the art of creating visual metaphors of convictions survive, in contrast to the avant-garde Establishment view of architecture as an expression of Master Builders creating visual and emotional experiences for spectators.
(...) Great Architecture is what Great Architects say it is. How can we know a Great Architect? By the Great Architecture he designs. At least, that's the implications of an article by Phillip Johnson in "The Inland Architect" a few years ago where he listed the best buildings of the last decade as those "which gave me the greatest thrill when I entered them." (...)
Great Architecture historically was not erected to provide aesthetic experiences for the visitors; rather, visitors' aesthetic experiences were contrived so that convictions embodied in the architecture might be more compelling.
According to orthodox architectural-historical theory, that concept of architecture as meaningful visual metaphor began disappearing in the 18th century and by now is totally gone. Its last exponent is supposed to have been Frank Lloyd Wright. He, according to Norris Smith, conceived of factories (for example) like the Larkin or Buffalo or the Johnson Wax in Racine, as sacred centers of communal life analogous to Greek temples or Gothic cathedrals in their time and place; he understood how to make houses metaphors of the family. Mais après lui, le déluge. That kind of architectural thinking is no more. Kaput. Fini."
|Johnson Wax, Frank Lloyd Wright|
Racine, Wisconsin (dezeen)
But - striking contrast! - what architectural landscape doesn't still have dozens of examples to show, of buildings conceived as metaphors of value, and decked out in eclectic style correspondingly. (...) popular/commercial builders all over the world have gone on perpetuating a kind of architecture which is supposed to have died long ago.
(...) However impoverished or banal popular/commercial architecture may aesthetically be, it remains conceived on traditional principles of High Architecture as an art of persuasion/conviction: full significance deriving from a body of ideas outside itself, style deliberately used to assert ideology.
The ideology being asserted in this case is, of course, a traditional one - the concept of a nuclear family in free possession of its own domain, the principle of free enterprise, the prizing of liberty above equality."
Gowans, A. (1981) Learning to See. Historical Perspective on Modern Popular/Commercial Arts. Ohio: Bowling Green. pp. 395-402