Three Polshek Projects
by James S. Polshek
One's memory of a physical place is a complex emotional and intellectual phenomenon, depending, as it does, on affect as well as on contextual appropriateness, human function, and constructive logic. Affect separated from these last three elements can result in idiosyncratic memorability — "art for art's sake."
In architecture, such separation ultimately makes one's perceptual experience less meaningful. Eve Hoffman has written: "memorability not accompanied by knowledge and thought can too easily become the vehicle of sentimental subjectivism or of a collective narcissism."
Architecture must provide opportunities to implement resolutions instead of creating oppositions — it must reveal dilemmas, solve problems, clarify rather than obscure — and it should accomplish this openly and rationally without fanfare or self-serving bombast.
The absence of "thought and knowledge" allows for a detachment from the humane and often leads to an exaggerated celebrity and advertisements of personal style. In architecture this can result in a formal stasis in which "art," rationalized by technical virtuosity, moves from the laboratory of invention to the marketplace of a material culture that is increasingly abetted by a celebrity-hungry media.
Clients naturally have self-serving objectives. Their buildings must serve practical needs both in accommodating a program and fulfilling the aspirations of the institutions they house. The buildings must express an institution's identity. Even while assisting clients to achieve their aims, the architect should, whenever possible, pursue "other-serving" goals: a socially conscientious architecture depends upon the coexistence of both "self" and "other."
In the emerging cyber-world of art and commerce, the virtual and the real are increasingly blurred, but buildings still represent the world of external reality. They are the public faces of private lives. They must encourage civility, be based on humane technologies, and profoundly respect nature and history. >>>
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This article is excerpted from Polshek Partnership Architects: 1988-2004 by James Stewart Polshek and partners, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, Inc.
William J. Clinton Presidential Center, in Little Rock, Arkansas, by James Stewart Polshek and his partners.
Photo: Timothy Hursley
The Clinton Presidential Center makes reference to the bridges of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Image: Polshek Partnership
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