The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Planning and Environmental Impact Design: from EIA to EID
Chapter: Chapter 3 Context sensitive design theory

Critical regionalism context theory

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Critical regionalism - Kenneth Frampton

A critical response to regional context can enable local and non-local factors to play their part in planning and design. Kenneth Frampton has proposed 'critical regionalism' as a means of creating an architecture which is neither a vacantly 'international' exercise in modern technology nor a 'sentimental' imitation of vernacular buildings (Frampton, 1987). Theoretically, the proposition is appealing. In practice it is hard to deploy. Frampton's only example of the approach is Jørn Utzon's 1976 Bagsvaerd Church in Copenhagen . This is seen as a synthesis of universal and idiosyncratic elements. The universal element is the church's regular grid and concrete frame. The idiosyncratic element is the use of a roof vault for which the only precedent is 'the Chinese pagoda roof'. This is discussed as a subtle way of producing a religious building which does not degenerate into 'the vagaries of kitsch'. The example does little to make a case for an architecture which belongs to the region in which it is built. It seem's likely that the Australian's church could be designed to pass the test of critical regionalism - but the Eucalyptus forest would probably be dismissed as 'sentimental'.