Hardback232 PagesSize: 240 × 170 mm
34 B&W illustrations
ISBN: 9781848224667Publication: October 01, 2021

Building Bad

How Architectural Utility is Constrained by Politics and Damaged by Expression

Jonathan Ochshorn



  • A lively and compelling discussion of how architects need to be made more aware of key technical, social and business issues to enable them to design and create better buildings for society as a whole 
  • Examines whether regulation is effective in creating safe, secure and healthy buildings and whether the focus on ’fashionable’ architecture detracts from creating buildings which fulfil their role sustainably, safely and for the good of the users 
  • Provides clear analysis of the technical and structural elements involved in building, which are usefully illustrated with the author’s drawings and photos of the mostly North American building studies

In this book, the author argues that architectural functionality is often constrained by political and economic forces, while it is also effectively undermined by modes of expression. Utilitarian building elements—for example, windows or skylights intended to bring daylight into offices or factories—may be subject to excessive heat gain, thereby coming into conflict with an evolving politics of energy conservation and global warming mitigation. Yet at the other extreme they may be deployed as part of expressive systems whose value, understood in terms of symbol and metaphor, can overwhelm these utilitarian considerations.

Politics and economics, in other words, establish lower and upper bounds for all utilitarian functions, whose costs and benefits are continually assessed on the basis of the profitable accumulation of wealth within a competitive global economy. Simultaneously, an artistic sensibility, also driven by competition, often contorts buildings into increasingly untenable forms. With utility both constrained by politics and attacked by expression, buildings—especially those that aim to be fashionable and avant-garde—often experience various degrees of utilitarian

The political constraints and expressive tendencies affecting architectural utility are separately examined in the two parts of this book, while an epilogue looks at the implications for architectural education.

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