Timeless architecture – Discussion 10

How does one define timelessness in architecture?? There could be a thousand views on the topic, well; some beleive it can be achieved by being simple and original. Others would be a little more conservative by stating a timeless building should reflect an era, its culture and technology. Anyhow, our discussion started with the famous quote from Mies Van der Rohe – “it’s better to be good than to be original”.

The enlightening presentation by Portuguese architect Tiago de Martos on Brazilian architecture gave impetus to the discussion. Tiago took a novel stand by presenting lesser known yet interesting work, a refreshing change from the well-known Brazilian starchitects Oscar Niemeyer and Marcio Kogan. One could understand the three basic principles that govern the Brazilian architecture Simplicity, clean, elegance.

Buildings are the clearest expression of the way of people living at a given historical period, exemplifying their available technology and their artistic ideals. More lasting than other cultural manifestations, Brazilian architecture often incorporated arts, such as sculpture, painting and other popular artifacts.

Discussion kick started when Tony pointed out the mission statement of Stapati – “Timeless architecture”. Well, how does one achieve it?? The discussion then turned to the question of universal character of good design, transcending boundaries and time periods. The quality of timelessness has always eluded definitions, but abounds with examples.

Ranjith pointed out the fact that all major architectural wonders have achieved that stature because of their simplicity. Purest use of original materials, plan and form all contribute to the making. Then comes the question, “what about Madura temple?? It is not simple in form, but nobody dares to say it is not a timeless building.” While it is not right to term it simple, it is indeed a startling testimony to timelessness.

So it is not simple form or plan alone. So what can it be? Well, like any dish, it should have all the proper ingredients in the right proportion. The reason why, for instance, the traditional Kerala architecture stands out is the proportion used. Any slight change may have ruined it.

Then came the question of the hugely popular and radical architects Zaha Hadid or Calatrava. Their buildings have the evident “wow factor” that makes them stand apart. They reflect the era in which they are built. Perhaps 50 years from now, people may call it a reflection of the modern era. They showcase the technology and culture of the time.

Discussion heated up when the mass voted against it. One group seemed to hold a latent dislike towards the Gehry and Zaha brand of design. “How can you call them timeless building?? Zaha hadid buildings don’t serve their purpose!!!” And so it emerged – a purpose. Parthenon, pantheon all got their value initially because of the function they were hosting. The religious backdrop did make a difference in the scale and importance of the building. Another step in achieving timelessness.

There was silence in the air for some time. Everyone was in a state of dilemma, trying to think it out aloud. It’s not a “thing” that can be achieved by a set of guidelines. Architecture is often said to be coined by the words art and technology. When all the ingredient – simplicity, scale, proportion, purpose, purity combined with the sense of how to mix them up, the perfect dish is served – a “TIMELESS BUILDING”

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