• Contrast as a Contextual Strategy

    Tweet 2012 Feb 9


    Dialog Between Soloist and Ensemble

    The most promising strategy to relate a programmatically significant building (soloist) to its context (ensemble) is to create a meaningful dialog between the two distinct entities. This counters the conventional notion that buildings are either contextual (ie. that reinforce and strengthen their surroundings) and are “fabric” buildings that blend in with their environments or are “object” buildings which intentionally disregard their surroundings and strive to stand out in the crowd.

    Last month, I held an architectural forum to discuss this topic. See the presentation here.

    A sequence of case studies illustrated how a complementary dialog between the object and its background can uncover the potential of a site, infusing it with new energy and life. The architectural studies, consisting of local and international projects, were complemented with case studies of site specific public sculptures that displayed similar attitudes in regards to responding to the specific qualities of the site.


    Some discussion points were brought up during the forum:

    1. Where in the diagram do we as architects want to be? Is our building always the best if it strives to strike a balance between object and fabric? And, do varying projects require different results?
    2. Is this question valid only in an urban context? What about building in suburbia or in a rural setting? How does one use this strategy of contrast where there is little or no strong context?
    3. Consideration of scale and massing seem to be key while placing a building in its context, but more often than not, the size of the building is driven by client or program needs. How should we as architects address this dichotomy?
    4. In architectural education, is too much importance given to being a soloist as opposed to being part of an ensemble? And, what is the result when multiple soloists are placed together – which in architecture happens a lot. How does each soloist ensure that the overall result is making good music?
    5. 5. The degree of contrast is also a function of the program; most of the examples shown had a significant public/institutional program relative to the context—museums, design schools, town hall. Would the notion change to adapt to non-public functions?


    Leave your thoughts in a comment below.

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