The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 12

LE CENTRE POMPIDOU, PARIS, PIANO AND ROGERS
CREDIT: MISTER NO, CREATIVE COMMONS

THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM,
NEW YORK, FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
CREDIT: KRISTOFFER ARVIDSSON (GÖTEBORGS
KONSTMUSEUM), CREATIVE COMMONS

These are just a few examples of professional and academic language that seems
designed to obscure, rather than explain. In the worst cases, architectural language can
be counter-persuasive. Does "a vibrant typological experiment" sound like something
you want to live across the street from? Examples like this appear in publications and
public presentations all the time.
The danger in using architectural language goes slightly further than merely excluding the public from the discussion. It also sometimes reveals that the very process of
design can be alienating. Words intended to advertise a building's virtues may instead
make it sound unsettling.
Even worse, fanciful architectural jargon can sometimes lull designers into believing that they are producing something quite marvellous, which in the context of the
language being used, it may well be. But to the layman, without the big words, and
without the architectural theory behind those words, it's just another ugly building.
There is therefore an onus on architecture to communicate in a way that,
while it may be appreciated on many levels, is accessible, rather than
conceived in a private language that only the cognoscenti can appreciate.

- Christian Illies and Nicholas Ray, in "An Aesthetic Deontology,"
Architecture Philosophy, Vol. 2, No. 1

ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Do architects bear any ethical responsibility to create "pleasant" buildings, or to at
least think about it?
There is a funny thing about taste. When we see something we find ugly, we don't just
view it as unpleasant, or even intellectually disturbing. We often experience an emotional
response: this isn't right; it's making me angry. Aesthetic judgments, it seems, are
linked to a personal moral code of right and wrong. Creating an unattractive building
is like public rudeness, or thoughtless behaviour. It affects our sense of justice and
morality (there is also research to back this up). This is why we sometimes resort to
language that is equally rude, such as "ugly," "toilet bowl," or "monstrous carbuncle."
In the Architecture Philosophy essay quoted above, Illies and Ray argue for an
"Obligation to Accessible Beauty." In a nutshell (with apologies for reducing their welldeveloped argument), the authors suggest that if the goal of architecture is to address
human needs, it must consider all legitimate human needs.
To their description of five varieties of beauty in architecture - formal, functional,
contextual, time related and intellectual - they add the following:
[...] the Obligation to Beauty can also be supported by a moral argument
of a different variety, one motivated by a concern for human well-being. If
we (morally) must promote human well-being, then this includes all human
needs and desires. After all, that is why buildings should be functional -
because as vulnerable, dependent animals, we need a safe and warm and
healthy place to live.

- Ilies and Ray

12 | Read The Right Angle Journal online www.therightanglejournal.ca



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017

Message from the Board
Why aren’t All Buildings Beautiful?
Resilience: The Forest and the Trees
Index to Advertisers
Locations: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Intro
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover1
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover2
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 4
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 5
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 6
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Message from the Board
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Why aren’t All Buildings Beautiful?
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 9
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 10
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 11
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 12
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 13
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 14
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 15
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 16
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 17
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 18
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Resilience: The Forest and the Trees
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Index to Advertisers
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Locations: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 22
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover4
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