There is no better symbolization of the prevalent culture than Architecture of the day and age. Being the one element that reaches deep into the psyche of society to manifest the reality of that day and age, it is actually a visual 3-d representation of the existence of that time. Every structure thus becomes a snapshot.
We currently live in a networked society. Fast-moving, cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, pre-fabricated, primarily services oriented as opposed to production oriented, outsourced, virtual, instant-messaging, instant-gratification, monetarily-valued economy and reality.
In a globalised world, we have global citizens, global professionals, global craftsmen, global education, global methods, and a global ethics and morality. We also have global design, global architecture.
What would be the snapshot today? What does the architecture of the millennium symbolizes and how does it manifest the psycho-social-politico-economic culture of today in the building materials, the design, the process of building, the relationships, the symbols and motifs.
In a fast moving culture that cannot wait for an end-result, concrete very much is the material of the day. An ultra-malleable material for but a short time, it requires fast intervention before it loses this quality. In a use-and-throw society, that wants something new before it has got bored of the old, it stands good as it degrades within half a century.
In a society where visibility is rated high, glass dominates. An insular society that needs a notion of freedom, that needs an expanse of vision from the armchair without a desire to interact with the outside, glass insulates from the natural elements creating an inside reality far removed from that one outside.
In a global world with a multi-ethnic culture, the most common aspects become the least common denominator that proliferate. Universalization of design thus happens. This is best seen in the commonality between any of the structures and cities of the world. Be it soaring skyscrapers or the flyovers and express-ways.
The way the society treats its people is best symbolized in the cubicalized, pigeon-hole apartments and high rises. Nuclear units for nuclear families. Seperatists. Individualized. Faceless innumerable windows, that look into one another eliciting a withdrawal into the self for privacy. Space a premium – socially and economically.
The social structure of today is best symbolized by the gated communities that barricade a section of people inside while excluding the rest of the world. The difference from the olden-day forts being that it is now also for the public and not only the rulers. It symbolizes the paranoia, fear, loneliness, violence and divisiveness that permeates our consciousness today.
The interactive streets have given way to the rushing, blurring expressways symbolizing the way we relate. We interact by choice, at our behest. Facebook-like, we have stop-overs for replenishment. We connect when we want to. Public spaces are marked out areas where people go to. Its no longer the fabric of everyday life. Community has to be invited.
The square and the flat are now the universal shapes. Easily assembleable. Quick to integrate. A quick-fix, easy-to-learn, networkable solution. Prefabrication makes it easy to Outsource and customize.
I guess I could go on ….