Architects and Their Symbols by Broadbent, Article Review Example

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Article Review

In his article, “Architects and Their Symbols,” Geoffrey Broadbent presents architecture as a visual language that is constantly emerging. According to the author, architects have a responsibility to relate the language through well-formed buildings and accentual concepts that create a living spectacle. Throughout his argument, Broadbent focuses on an old and new paradigm. Although the old paradigm serves as a solid foundation, architects must move past the Modern approach of design to create relatable buildings. Like some modern day architects, Broadbent believes that the architectural paradigm must shift in order for a more cohesive visual language to be established.

Although he discusses many concepts and uses numerous respected academics to support his claims, the central idea that Broadbent advocates for is change. The author is constantly trying to help the audience understand why change is vital to the survival of architectural language. Whereas the old paradigm sparks appreciation for what structures symbolize, the new paradigm, allows individuals to appreciate buildings because of their identity as a structure. In past times, viewers would appreciate a cathedral because it symbolizes religion. In today’s society, however, such structure is recognized more for its form and less for its purpose. While many architects content with the status quo criticize Post Modern architects, Broadbent believes that structures should be hailed for form and not symbolism. As the author explains,  “building forms change their meanings” (111), and such changes lead to an improved visual language. While symbolism offers appreciation for the finer things in life, it does nothing to improve the architectural status. Structural appreciation is necessary for architectural emergence.

In many aspects, Broadbent is correct in his analysis. Although architecture has been a part of the world’s context for centuries, constant changes are necessary for survival. Any discipline that does not improve its language will eventually become obsolete. The old paradigm calls for appreciation based on purpose which is a key point in any art, but the shifting paradigm allows individuals to go beyond mere visuals to understand what the architect is trying to convey. Broadbent’s argument essentially places the architectural world on the crux of a new horizon that creates a working relationship between professionals and the general public. Individuals will not be so adamant about destroying historical buildings if they knew what the artists was expressing through his design.

While Broadbent’s claim takes architecture to another level, it also sets the discipline back. Although a society that appreciates a structure for its form creates a better understanding between professional and common man, it does not increase knowledge about the building’s purpose. A structure’s form is vital but the reason that it was built is equally important. There is no point in appreciating a building meant to serve as a fire station if one cannot understand its central purpose of providing shelter to fire trucks and men. Broadbent establishes an excellent argument that states the need for a new paradigm, but he completely discounts the old paradigm of symbolism, which can prove detrimental to architecture.

Terms

  1. Paradigm-the set of social pressures acting on a particular group.
  2. Philosophical Component-a situation where the researchers and theoreticians who, having pondered deeply on the problems which beset the going paradigm present those ideas which challenge the status quo.
  3. Functional-the simplest, most direct and cheapest solution to a particular design problem and any attempt to make them “look like,” say, any building from the past.
  4. Practitioners-those who have tried to deliberately build an architecture with meaning.
  5. Decorated shed-the idea that given any architectural problem, an architect plans the most efficient building he or she can.
  6. Language- something we all share; this includes dictionary words and sets of grammatical rules.
  7. Speech- personal uses.
  8. Signifier-the spoken or written word, the diagram, drawing, picture, or whatever by which ideas are being conveyed.
  9. Signified-the thoughts, ideas, concepts, and so on which actually are being conveyed.
  10. Referent-the object, person, or other kind of thing to which signified concepts refer.
  11. Contextualism-the idea that forms for new designers are derived from the context that it is placed in.
  12. Allusionism-may involve the re-use of established and successful types. Centrally a matter of trying to recapture an appropriate mood which may involve the incorporation of fragments from past to present.
  13. Ornamentalism-an emphasis on the physical surfaces for decorating purposes.

Works Cited

Broadbent, Geoffrey. “Architects and Their Symbols.” pp. 96-113

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