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  • Tejashrii Shankarraman

Originality

“Original” is defined as “that from which a copy, reproduction, or translation is made.” It refers to an innovative or a revolutionary idea. Architects celebrate the notion of originality, but very rarely do they realise that originality may itself be their downfall.

I came across an interview with Philip Johnson where he claims that his buildings aren’t very original. He also goes further to say that originality isn’t his aim in architecture. He claims that to be good, it’s okay to reappreciate existing forms.

PJ Glass House

Is it inventive enough ? Source : Google


In a previous post, I had perused on the broadest ways that forms can be approached. There is a notion that pure forms are inherently “boring” for their repeated use. To break away from this and go in search for originality, most people often lose their way with the building. Johnson goes on to quote the Clark University Library as one such example.

Clark University library

Robert H. Goddard Library (1969) | by Marcfoto on Flickr


The book Copy Paste, recently published by The Why Factory advocates a similar idea. Winy Maas makes an argument that architects are too caught up in being original that we have become “a generation that suffers, untethered from history.”

winy-maas-copy-and-paste_dezeen_2364_col_1-1704x1209

A spread from Copy Paste; Source : Dezeen


In my personal opinion, there are many examples from both sides of the argument that succeed in being good designs.

The Guggenheim by FLW is an example of an innovative design that works. While it is a carefully composed design, the above image from Copy Paste shows how even innovative designs have their roots in an “original”. The original was an aspiration which FLW has interwoven with scale and mass of the immediate context to produce the Guggenheim as it is.

guggenheim-museum-new-york

Guggenheim, NY. FLW; Source : Google


To take an example of a pure, existing form, let’s consider the Louvre, Paris. The context was so powerful that any derived form would have taken away from it. The pyramids demand an attention while still maintaing the sanctity of its context.

louvre paris

Louvre, Paris. I M Pei; Source : Google


So instead of asking ourselves if the design is inventive enough, maybe we should be asking ourselves if the design is good. A sense of coherence, proportion and scale are often more important to the final product than its seemingly innovative form.

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