Agios Antonios 2018 1

Design vs. Styling

A considerable amount (some would say most) of current as well as historic architecture is derivative of an earlier design or design style. In my opinion, it takes an aligning of the stars for a truly unique design to take place. And ironically, that work of art is often the foundation for many pale repetitions and stylizations.

There are places in the world where the repetition of a certain architectural image can be delightful, such as with the “carpenter’s gothic” shotgun houses lined up in the Irish Channel of New Orleans, or the curving street-fronts of Georgian row houses in Bath, England. And there are circumstances where adopting a historic style can be necessary and successful. But repetition can also be mind-deadening as can be seen in so many American suburban developments where the same few house designs are repeated endlessly.

I believe that a building can be a sculpture to live and/or work in, reflecting the unique qualities of the people for whom it’s built and both the natural and human-made environment where it’s located, including the earth and water below and the sky above. For that to happen, it’s necessary to have a design approach and collaboration that considers subtle as well as practical aspects of the building. This includes the function, materials, structure and mechanics and also less obvious or tangible aspects, for example: reflecting a story, memory, piece of music, color or even a dream that’s deeply important to the client.

By definition, true architectural design embraces a wholistic approach. This is the polar opposite from the styling you see every year in the automobile industry where usually little changes except what’s superficial. Recently I saw a collage of images of 20 current SUV’s, all white and ranging from the most to least expensive. Without close scrutiny, it was impossible to see any differences between them. I find that depressing.

Not everyone has or wants the opportunity to build a home or building from the ground up. But if you do, I encourage you to open your mind and heart to the possibilities of true design. This approach can span from larger and more complex to smaller and simpler buildings. It does not necessarily require a large budget. What makes all of them unique is the process of true design.