The Notre Dame. Sacre Coeur. L’Hotel de Ville. Places des Vosges. The Saint Michel Fountain and the Louvre. The rows upon rows of perfectly-proportioned French dwellings that constitute Paris. Beautiful, classic architecture, built of enduring masonry and aesthetics. The great Pyramids of Giza, the Roman Colosseum, the Pantheon and Notre Dame. Built using the latest technologies and via tremendous feats of collaborative engineering, these manmade structures responded to human needs for their time: housing, entertainment, access to God. Why don’t we build buildings like this anymore?
(Okay, so this isn’t really a letter from Paris. I’ve been back in Seattle for over a week now, but this post was inspired by Paris, so the lede still stands).
Architecture is a social act. And architects always have to justify their decisions to certain institutions. [These] institutions can be the family who wanted to have their house built, or the CEO of a million dollar company. – A Reddit commenter.
There are a multitude of reasons why we don’t: technical, social, political, functional, practical, financial. And because frankly, we’ve been there, done that. We’ve proven our human intelligence and prowess through the creation of many a beautiful, technological, cutting edge building. Now, humanity’s priorities are different. Instead of tens of thousands of man hours being spent on intricate carvings of a cathedral facade, paintings on a ceiling mural, or engineering calculations for a flying buttress, we focus our collective brain power on stuff like this:
See also: A Star in a Bottle in the March 3, 2014 New Yorker.
This is why we don’t build buildings like that anymore.