Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baxter Territory2 Expat-Repat

Europeans are building "Kasbah" buildings all over the place, while Shigeru Ban builds refugee structures in Africa. Countries like Japan and China use western architecture to help their argument that they've modernized. Some places have been colonized or modernized for so long that they struggle to remember what their local architecture used to prioritize. Frank Lloyd Wright brought back new ideas from ancient Japanese temples and bath houses that influenced his designs of the new American domestic residence. Prior to the proliferation of information, we already lived in a world that mixed up global ideas to solve local problems, but today the process has accelerated.

Today, I can take an overnight flight to Mongolia to look at their yurts in the grass plains, while simultaneously, on a single screen, comparing them online to the tent structures of Berber peoples in northern Africa, reading about the ground breaking inflatable structures of archigram and video conferencing a meeting with my project manager and design team back in the United States.

I'm interested in the impact exposure to other cultural solutions to similar problems that entirely altered the urban landscapes of cities across the globe in the last generation has evolved into something entirely new during our generation. How is the ability to instantaneously engage such distant realities altering the potential of design, and is it?

Ex-pat, refers to the idea that an ideology is inevitably exported when an uninfluenced person travels to another place and offers their expertise. The expertise that they offer is often based in philosophical foundations that differ completely from the thinking of the people that they wish to assist. The result of projects in this situation often end up being something blatantly foreign amongst a sea of projects that all share a similar aesthetic. This implantation of foreignness then leads to an integration, by the locals, of the strengths of the new into the customs and skills of the old, resulting in a wave of something new.

Re-pat, refers to the reverse of the situation of the Ex-pat, when that professional, who by being immersed in that other culture, has been deeply influenced by the immersion in that new lace and brings back expertise discovered there and by default begins including those ideas in the designs he/she does. The result would be the introduction of simple strategies that alter the way design and construction are done at home.

This process is inherently diplomatic. What level of attention and respect do we give to cultural strategies that have developed over thousands of years when we can access the schematic information about it instantaneously? To what depth do we understand the meaning inherent to the styles and strategies we then implement into our own contemporary designs. Is the Kasbah I mentioned above, not based on Monarchical social structures? Are we properly understanding the implications of a thousand year old structure meant to control its occupants when we build it today as an open democratic building?

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