Some mainstream media say architecture is in a crisis. They claim today’s buildings are irrelevant, boring and maybe even “too architectural.” Frank Gehry says architecture is in a crisis, famously stating that with today’s buildings, “There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else.” So, is architecture, and the glass in it, really in a crisis?
I share architect Marc Kushner’s opinion that architecture is not in a crisis, but rather in an age of experimentalism. “This is an architecture that — because of the public’s hunger for newness — is finally free to create thoughtful and sometimes radical solutions for the problems that our society faces,” says Kushner.
As Kushner, the co-founder of HWKN and CEO of Architizer.com, further explains, the barriers between the building industry professional and the consumer are finally being broken down by the accessibility of communication. Instead of architects’ designs suffering from the “reverberations of our own echo chamber,” we now have more direct access to the public’s reaction to our work.
Good or bad, these reactions provide us with the opportunity to make mid-course corrections before we look back and see that an era of buildings has been defined as those of the architecture crisis. This adaptability is the good kind of experimentalism – the kind that allows us to make buildings relevant for the people that actually use them, not just a personal art project of the design community.
As glazing industry professionals, we can play a key role in this design approach. Today’s architecture is fueled by glass more than at any other time in history. That puts us in a prime position to use glazing to push the envelope and help create buildings that meet the needs of our communities.
This could be using glass in skyscrapers to give occupants access to relaxing views and daylight, on-demand privacy and temperature control. It could be making glass the focal point of a building while also meeting hurricane or seismic codes. Or, it could be using glass to make small-scale buildings more accessible and beneficial to the communities using them. As Architect magazine’s Ned Cramer points out, large-scale, high-budget buildings aren’t the only structures that should benefit from our creativity. As he argues, “…right now this country needs architects who are willing to forego the Howard Roark cliché and find the joy in tight budgets, limited briefs, and seemingly mundane programs.”
We’ve made a lot of significant advances in the last decade, and I’m confident we’ll make many more in the years to come. These developments won’t be without their bumps and bruises. But, that’s not merely trial and error. Or a crisis. It’s advancement.
So, to borrow from Kushner once more, “I say keep imagining and fighting for better buildings. There is now a public that craves innovation. If we listen to them instead of the voices proclaiming doom and gloom, we will be able to seize the opportunity of this new golden age.” Or, as we like to say at TGP, it’s time for the glazing industry to unleash its swagger.
Jeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. He writes frequently about the design and specification of glazing for institutional and commercial buildings, and is a past chair of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC). Contact him at 800/426-0279.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.