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Critical Regionalism Is An Approach

Critical regionalism is an approach to architecture wherein one tries to oppose the idea of a lack of identity and belonging of some modern architecture using the geographical context of the building. The term was introduced by the architectural theorists Alessandro Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre, then subsequently by historian-theoretician Kenneth Frampton, who used it with a slightly different meaning.

The idea of critical regionalism emerged during the early 1980s when postmodern architecture, which was itself a reaction to modern architecture, was at its peak. However, the major theorist of critical regionalism, Kenneth Frampton, was also critical of postmodernism. In reality, critical regionalism, unlike postmodernism, rather than thinking of a hasty backward movement, tried to re-establish the modern by considering it – in Jürgen Habermas’s terms – an unfinished project.

According to the latter, in this context the adoption of efficient parameters in evaluating the spaces and materials of architecture does not prevail, but the aim is to foster the development of "a strong and full of identity culture, which nevertheless maintains open contacts with the universal technique. "

Reading the history of Frampton’s modern architecture, I came across this definition of "critical regionalism" that seems very current to me, more than the examples to which Frampton approaches it.

Critical Regionalism refuses to abandon the more progressive aspects of the legacies of modern architecture. At the same time, the fragmentary and marginal nature of critical Regionalism serves to remove it from both the optimization of legislation and the ingenuous utopia of the first modern Movement.

In this regard critical Regionalism manifests itself as an architecture consciously addressed; rather than placing the emphasis on the building as an isolated object, it attributes importance to the territory to be established with the new structure. This "place-form" implies that the architect identifies the physical boundaries of his work as a kind of temporal limitation, as the point at which the present action of construction is exhausted.

It can be asserted that critical Regionalism unavoidably induces a change on certain specific factors of an area, starting from topography, considered as a three-dimensional matrix in which the structure is inserted, to arrive at the changing play of local light. Through the structure itself. Light is invariably understood as the primary agent through which the volume and tectonic value of the work are revealed. An articulated response to climate conditions is an inevitable corollary. Although critical regionalism opposes, for example, the tendency of "universal civilization" that optimizes the use of air conditioning; it tends to treat all openings as delicate areas of passage, able to respond to specific conditions imposed by the site, climate and light.

Critical Regionalism emphasizes the tactile perception as the visual one.

He is aware of the fact that the environment can be perceived not only in visual terms. It is sensitive to complementary perceptions such as the changing degrees of lighting, the environmental sensations of heat, cold, humidity and air movements, variable aromas and sounds returned by different materials in different volumes, and even the different sensations induced by the finishing touches of the floor. In the age dominated by the media, Regionalism opposes the substitution of the experience of information.

If on the one hand it opposes the sentimentality of the local vernacular, Critical Regionalism can occasionally insert vernacular elements reinterpreted as disjunctive episodes within a whole. Moreover, it sometimes derives these elements from foreign sources. In other words, it tries to cultivate a contemporary culture oriented to the place without becoming unduly hermetic both at the level of the formal referent and at the technological level.

Critical Regionalism tends to thrive in those cultural interstices that, in one way or another, are able to escape the optimizing tension of universal civilization. Its appearance indicates that the inherited notion of a dominant cultural centre surrounded by dependent and dominated satellites is, ultimately, an inadequate model for giving an overall judgment on the current state of modern architecture.

In the theory of art, formalism is the belief that aesthetic values can stand on their own and that the judgment of art can be isolated from other considerations such as ethical and social. Preponderance is given to the purely formal or abstract qualities of the work; that is, for example, those visual elements that give it shape: the form, the composition, the colours or the structure.

Formalism is an abstract theory that had its concepts formulated in the 60’s, whose antecedents go back to the beginning of the vanguard of the twentieth century. It is a movement that rejects the spiritism of artists like Malevich and Kandinsky.

The formalism includes works of different tendencies and works the concept of the look and the result of the visual and aesthetic experience. Its fundamental characteristic is the austerity, that goes beyond the geometric values, combining the form and content.

For example, today we see architecture imitating painting, or sculpture: I mean that we see architecture borrowing techniques that are not specific to it.

We see research of an abstract or radical nature, research based on geometry.

Usually these are short-term fads that are then completely forgotten despite having received, albeit briefly, attention.

There are few things that remain impressed with contemporary architecture.

The projects that we usually see are fascinating and yet do not leave any impact in the long run or anything to learn.

It almost seems that one cannot avoid falling into experimentalism as an end in itself, to the fascination of a new form.

Formalism has now become a struggle for the purpose of being authentic and is stronger than the historical experience of the cities that surround us, a denial of the very essence of the place.