Is Contemporary Architecture full of nonsense?

Without architecture, our planet wouldn’t be complete.

The environment an average person spends 70% of their life in is all created by one of the most powerful forms of art to exist, architecture. Just like everything else, architecture has gone through several changes with time. What defines the twenty-first century’s architecture is its contemporary nature. This type of architecture can be seen as an evolution of modern architecture that dominated between the end of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

Contemporary vs Modern Architecture

Contemporary and modern architecture is what we can classify as two things that are the same but different. Modern architecture tends to connect with nature and simplicity, whereas contemporary architecture tends to create an almost sculptural structure that demands you to stare at it. It’s the expressiveness of form and design, it’s where the unnecessary overcomes the necessary and the importance of the artistic side of the design overcomes simple functionality.

Creativity over functionality?

In contrary to other architectural styles, such as gothic or neoclassical architecture, contemporary architects have greater freedom when it comes to design as this specific style encourages new and revolutionary ideas.

As you can imagine, new ideas aren’t always welcomed with open arms. Contemporary architects have been subject to several critics and still continue to be to this day. The main concern when it comes to this specific style of architecture is the lack of functionality it has. Contemporary architects are criticized for not putting the users’ needs first, remaining completely inconsiderate towards them. Furthermore, it is also said that architects tend to lack acknowledgment when it comes to taking into account the site conditions.

How do architects respond to this criticism? Even the most famous architects sometimes lack maturity in front of a critique that is directed to them. Frank Gehry, one of the most famous architects of our century, ends up pulling up a middle finger and calling “98 percent of what gets built and designed today pure shit” after being denounced for designing architecture only for show.

However, if architecture was only about providing us with practical buildings that are simply made with the only objective of fulfilling our needs, we would have a planet full of buildings that are repetitions of one and another.

What if contemporary architecture wasn’t full of nonsense?

Contrary to many people’s knowledge, contemporary architecture does have several elements that help us define it. Firstly, the selection of the right materials holds an extremely significant place. Generally, architects tend to lean towards materials such as metal, concrete, sustainable wood, glass and steel. That being said, unconventional building materials and industrial materials are what contemporary architects are inclined towards.

Another notable characteristic is the place innovation and technology have in contemporary architecture. Designs with curves or cut edges are a living example of the use of these innovations and technologies. The use of sustainable materials is also a part of great innovation and maintains high importance in today’s society.

In general, most contemporary buildings tend to have a free-flowing form with creativity screaming from every corner of the building. The extensive use of curved lines tends to remain one of the principal characteristics. Geometric simplicity, whether it’s with curves or a flat roof, is what architects tend to lean towards. It’s also where the beauty of contemporary architecture lies.

Examples of contemporary architecture

To start, let’s take a look at the design of one of the most famous museums in the world: The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. This building was built between 1993 and 1997, designed by Frank Gehry. With this structure, Gehry introduced a distinguishable way to museum design.

Guggenheim Museum – Bibao, Spain

If we were to focus on architecture combining nature and humans together, a perfect example would be the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore built in 2012. This nature park was designed by two architects: Grant Associates & Architects and Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

Gardens – Bay, Singapore

Traveling from Singapore back to Switzerland, an award-winning architecture lies just a few kilometers from Lausanne in Institut Le Rosey, Rolle. This building was created by Bernard Tschumi. It is mostly used as a concert hall, but it also houses art rooms, a library, a cafeteria, conference rooms and many other facilities for the students studying at Institut Le Rosey.

Institut Le Rosey – Rolle, Switzerland

An article on contemporary art has to contain at least one building from Zaha Hadid. As architect Rem Koolhaas said, “Zaha Hadid is a planet in her own inimitable orbit.” She created architectural perfection with her buildings. Being known as the “queen of curves,” Hadid portrays this perfectly with her Heydar Aliyev Centre design that is located in Baku, Azerbaijan. After five years of construction, the building was finished in 2012.

Heydar Aliyev Centre – Baku, Azerbaijan

Bird’s Nest is the National Stadium of Beijing. It was designed by architects Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Ai Weiwei and Li Xinggang. This stadium that was built in 2007 shows us a unique and undoubtedly eye-catching way to design a stadium. It was specifically designed for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and managed to mark its territory in people’s minds with its characterful design that resembles a bird’s nest.

Bird’s Nest, National Stadium – Beijing, China

After taking a look at all these contemporary architectures, that are all entirely different from each other, one question pops into my mind “what makes a building special?”

The answer to this question will vary from one individual to another. For me, what makes contemporary architecture much more exceptional is the freedom architects have to express themselves. With buildings that all resemble a sculpture, we can see the power of art and design when it comes to designing a remarkable living space for humans.

Lara Aksu