09 Aug The industrialization of architecture in the United States of America
Society has been evolving, technological advances, industrialization and serial production have been one of the achievements or disasters of human beings, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, I think that the achievement has been through the serial generation of great products that society demands, but on the other hand, the loss of identity vis-à-vis economic power. By this I do not mean that I am against economic power, but I also do not want to fail to highlight the consequences, which in a certain way are in our hands, with the loss of identity that it is causing.
The industrialization of architecture is the title of this article because I think it is a phenomenon that is happening on a large scale in the United States of America and, as expected, it will be a trend soon in Europe.
Since I opened my architecture firm in Miami in 2016, and with a few frenetic years of experience and learning (especially more than learning than experience, I have been behind me for more than 15 years, they are not many, but they give me a vision more panoramic), I have seen the big difference in managing an architecture firm. In Spain, because I don’t know if the same thing happens in Europe, although I imagine it will be the same, architecture focuses on solving problems in implementation, program and everything we already know, but in the USA, architecture is a production factory.
I have come to this conclusion for various reasons. One of them is that urbanism based on the grid without history in urban plots means that “everyone” has the same plot, 50’x100 ‘(16mx33m), rectangular, flat, north-south, east-west. When they want to build a building, they buy several plots, unify them and make the big building that can occupy one block. By this I mean that the proportions are the same, more or less, but on a larger scale. Building facing south-north, or east-west. Also, they are 1 bedroom, 2 or 3 bedroom at most, standard.
A friend from Miami who is from Barcelona, one night talking about architecture, I asked him: How many friends do you have in Barcelona that have a one-room apartment and are the same? The answer was clear, each one more or less has a different floor, with more corridor, more or less square, etc … The same question in Miami, the answer is also evident, I would say that 95% of the people I know who live in a one, two or three bedroom apartment, it is practically the same with its variants. The homogenization, repetition and mass production of buildings with more than 300 houses means that more has to be produced than created.
With this premise, the architecture firm ends up being a blueprint production factory, where speed is a plus, and architectural quality ends up being in the background, limiting luxury houses or unique buildings that demand architecture, but at the In the end the houses end up being the same.
What has happened to Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright among other greats in America, my answer is clear, the industrialization of architecture has caused architects to end up being directors of housing factories, leaving behind what sets us apart from other professions. We look at people, we know how to interpret the weather, we know how to listen and in the end we create a unique architectural product, adapted and specialized for each client in each place. Now you can paint the facade in a different color, change the orientation and put glass balconies and you have another building just like the previous one, but with make-up that looks like a new project and fits on any plot that your client may have. So repeating is business.
Time is money!
For the population, they only see a new building, where the exterior is not of major importance and what matters is that the interior is decorated with good community services. As for the single-family houses, the same thing happens, with putting a swimming pool, a palm tree and a hammock, the photo is spectacular because the place, the Caribbean environment, fills the lack of architecture.
I make this reflection because it is what I perceive, we are architects because we are professionals who know how to work the space, the use, the technique and we know how to interpret infinite factors that affect the people who are going to live inside the buildings, and we also know how to do the interesting things to be pieces of art put in the city. People travel to see cities, which are made by architects, and it is one of our functions, but in the USA they have forgotten who we are because the architects themselves want to produce and not design.
We have to claim, because we have lost it, the role of the architect so that it does not produce as if he were working in a factory, to prevent the cities in which we live and specifically the people who inhabit them from losing their identity. We are architects, we don’t want to produce, and we want to create!
Joaquín Fernández, architect. COAC correspondent in Miami, United States of America