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Patrick Lynch - Frampton

Patrick Lynch says Frampton may be seen as a throwback, but he knows what good architecture is

Kenneth Frampton recently set out on these pages some potential criteria for judging the Stirling Prize – a short synopsis of what might be called good architectural design (AJ 02.08.07). They are: the relationship of a building to its context; the quality of the material thinking; the quality of the building in use; and the ‘phenomenological values’ of a project. You could further describe Frampton’s criteria as: the quality of urban response; the quality of the detailing; the quality of the planning; the quality of the section; and the quality of the architectural experience overall.

Frampton’s recent attacks upon ‘the brash opportunism’ of our leading lights update his most influential essay ‘Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance’, first published in 1983 in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Post-Modern Culture. He marks what he calls ‘The rise and fall of the avant-garde’, pointing out that ‘what still passes for progressive thinking in design’ is a symptom of what happens ‘when technics becomes the universal form of material production, it circumscribes an entire culture, it projects a historical totality – a “world”’.

Frampton’s essay in some sense launched the international careers of Rafael Moneo, lvaro Siza and other contemporary greats. But it is more significant as a call to arms for a nascent ecological approach to building and ‘a renewed basis for the spiritual. One founded’, he argues, ‘in a regional reaffirmation – grounds at least for some form of collective spirituality.’ Frampton proposes that we consider also the ‘resistance of the place-form’, and ‘the visual versus the tactile’. In particular he hates air conditioning, seeing it as the extension of the International Style in to our lungs. Frampton’s critique reveals his humanist values, concluding that ‘the tactile and the tectonic jointly have the capacity to transcend the mere appearance of the technical in much the same way as the place-form has the potential to withstand the relentless onslaught of global modernisation.' These values can also ensure that the air is fresh and the materials that a building is made from are good quality.

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