The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 9

The topic is chronically under-discussed. But we felt then, and feel now, that an open
conversation would help us, as a profession to understand why people might regard
some of our work as ugly. After all, no architect sets out to design ugly buildings. That
would seem to be counterproductive, possibly hostile. And yet ....
ARCHITECTURE SHOULD NEVER BE REDUCED TO A DISCUSSION OF HOW BUILDINGS LOOK.

Always live in the ugliest house on the street -
then you don't have to look at it.

- David Hockney

David Hockney's statement depends on two poor assumptions.
First, since ugliness, like beauty, is skin deep, it should follow
that, in architecture, ugly is what you see on the outside, not
what you experience on the inside. Second, ugliness is universal,
so although beauty is a personal matter, ugliness is not: If you
find something ugly, everyone else should too.
In reality, architectural design is extremely complex, involving
an unbelievably broad range of considerations, of which beauty
is one. Yet, there is a constant tendency, especially in the popular press and social
media, to limit the discussion to nice versus nasty. Buildings are either beautiful or ugly,
otherwise they aren't noticed or discussed at all.

THE SAGRADA FAMILIA,
BARCELONA, ANTONIO GAUDÍ
CREDIT: BERNARD GAGNON,
CREATIVE COMMONS

SHOULD ARCHITECTURE BE COMFORTING OR CONFRONTATIONAL?

Architecture may be an art - possibly even the mother of the arts.2 Many people think
so. But if it is, then according to prevailing opinion, established a century ago, it has
to invite an intellectual challenge. Edginess is in, cuteness and quaintness are out.
Architects struggle over these competing ideals, but the wider majority is not conflicted
at all: they prefer not to have their intellect challenged.
Artistic movements at the beginning of the twentieth century set out to liberate art
from the constraints of beauty. It was a time of industrial progress. New icons such
as automobiles and airplanes possessed a raw appeal that made beauty and style -
the preoccupations of classical revival and art nouveau - seem frivolous. From now
on, art wasn't just a matter of personal taste. It was something that involved work.
In our Ottawa seminar, I asked the audience the following two questions:
1. How many think that a work of art should be comforting, and how many feel that
it should be challenging? Show of hands - one choice only please.
2. How many believe that architecture is an art, and how many believe that it is
a science? In this case you can make two choices. How many believe that it is
both art and science?
Not surprisingly, the majority of attendees felt that art should be challenging. This
coincides with research indicating that people with some art education ("experienced"
viewers) hold this opinion, while those with little or no art education ("naïve" viewers -
i.e., the vast majority of the general public) opt for comforting. The Ottawa audience
consisted almost entirely of art-educated architects.
To the second question, the response was mixed, but the audience felt, on balance,
that architecture was both an art and a science.
This is leads to the basic architectural conundrum: The public prefers attractive buildings, which means, by general consensus, that they should be pleasing to look at. But
if architecture is an art, it is not required to be beautiful at all. And if it is a science,
then aesthetics, by most definitions, is not even a consideration. Yet, the discussion
of beauty and ugliness continues to dominate our relationship with the general public.
BEAUTY IS NOT ENTIRELY IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER.

We don't all like the same things. Mostly, this can be chalked up to personal preference (I like it because I like it). But over the past two decades, research scientists
have developed ways of predicting how we will respond to aesthetic stimuli. Simply
put, scientists can tell us how to design buildings that people will like.3
The Right Angle | Winter 2017/2018 | 9



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
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0220
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0120
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0419
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0319
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0219
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0119
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0418
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0318
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0218
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0118
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0417
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/BEFQ/BEFQ0317
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com