Does Architecture Make A City?
Sometimes, when admiring the work of some of worlds most high profile and prolific architects, it can be easy to get lost in the pomp and grandeur that comes with their gleaming monuments to the new architecture. In the same moment however, I have to ask myself a number of questions, some of which I find disturbing as an architecture student. There seems to be a notion that exists within the construction world that the name of the architect, or company is the most important aspect in the creation of the building, and I find myself asking – does architecture make a city what it is, or more specifically, does architecture create a city?
Architecture is used, increasingly more and more it seems, as a tool for the modern urbanisation of a city. This thought process reminded me of a photo journal I saw over at National Geographic about Astana, the Kazakhstan capital city. Formerly a worker and gulag camp during the Soviet era, and not much more than a fishing village prior to that, the city was chosen as the capital city of the newly independent Kazakhstan in 1995, with it officially becoming so in 1997.
To endow the city, the country and the citizens with a sense of grandeur and coming of age, the government as spared no expense in creating a city with architecture from some of the world’s greatest, including Sir Norman Foster. But, and for me, this is the key issue, does merely creating a city of gleaming ‘urban technoism’ architecture add value to a city in the relative early stages of social and cultural development? Masterplanned cities are nothing new, and many architects, including Le Corbusier and Wright drew out their visionary ideals for the city of the future. These designs don’t address issues of historic development, and rarely do they offer a system of adaptability within the city. Some of the world’s largest cities exist in a state of flux, expanding, altering and adapting, not only to the changes in architecture, but to the needs of the citizens and in reflection of past and present events. Vitally though, their architecture is forever responding to a deeper, almost unquantifiable underlying notion that reflects the myriad of various strings and threads running through the city.
Ultimately, time will tell if architecture maketh the city, but my gut feeling on this one is that its a more complex notion than simply ‘build it, and they will come’. Check out the full set of photos at the link below.