Part 1 – Presentation
It is really the best of times, and the worst of times.
Architecture is quite high-profile these days. There is a never-before media attention, creating a roster of celeb architects (or “starchitects”), whose name alone is enough to sell out the commercial developments that they design. Also perhaps there has never been a time in history with so many professional architects designing so many buildings.
Yet most of what we see around is “junk architecture” – buildings of hollow elegance that are created for instant consumption, and are of no lasting value. Why is the higher number of professionals and the increased attention not leading to a increased level of public awareness and higher quality of built environment? Why are most affluent American cities like ours so impoverished when it comes to having structures that are capable of inspiring/touching deeply those who enter it or inhabit it?
These are big questions, definitely! Yet one has to start the inquiry somewhere, and we will start by looking at two different aspects of the problem – first at how architecture is practiced today, and then at the place of the profession in today’s society.
Anyone familiar with the profession knows that architects have very little say in the shaping of today’s cities. Much of what we see around are dictated by governments, consumers, developers and other economic and legal forces. That being the case,
The panelists, in alphabetical order.
Rebecca R. Fant founded her architectural practice, Architecture Matters, in 2005. Her work focuses on residential and small commercial projects with intent to integrate sustainable design principles. She received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia and a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. Her twenty-one years of practice began in Roanoke, Virginia, and proceeded up the east coast to Washington, DC, Philadelphia, PA, and New York City. She moved to Charlotte and joined Odell in 1997 and has been active in several community groups and the AIA. She is currently President of AIA Charlotte and will be serving on the CMS Standards Review Committee.
Murray Whisnant was born in Charlotte and educated in Charlotte public schools, and the School of Design at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh. After graduation he worked with 3 successive firms in Charlotte, prior to establishing his own firm in the city in 1976. In 1990 he was elevated to Fellowship in the AIA, and simultaneously was awarded the Kamphoefner Prize for his devotion to modern architecture. His work has included residences, university buildings, ecclesiastical and commercial structures which have been recognized and commented by the NCAIA Design Awards program. Like many architects in our retrospective culture, most of his best work, has gone into his waste basket.
Peter L. Wong is an architect and Associate Professor at UNCC, where he has taught architectural design, history, and theory since 1988. He received his bachelors in 1981 from the University of Washington in Seattle, and masters from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. He is a recipient of a 1996 Design Excellence Award given by the National Organization of Minority Architects and has received an AIA Charlotte Merit Award for a workshop and guest house completed in 2003. His written work includes a translated edition of Vittorio Gregotti’s essay, Inside Architecture, as well as writing that explores the meaning and use of architectural drawing techniques. Currently he is designing a group of small houses that reinterprets 1950s and 60s architectural modernism.