|Seagram Building, Mies Van der Rohe, 1969 (source)
We deride the term cliché because it substantiates our insecurities. The cliché informs us that no designer is an island, that we all lack originality, that we are all hacks. In practice, the cliché is a means of organizing a messy abstract body of work into clean boxes _ merely another term for ‘style’.
The International Exhibition of Modern Architecture, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1932, is credited with being the birthplace of the modern ‘style’, not because it documented a novel practice, but because it was able to demonstrate a lack of originality in the work of contemporary practitioners across the globe. Aalto in Finland, Le Corbusier in France, and Mies and Gropius in Germany. Imported to America, this sameness reproduced a thousand times over revealed the ‘cliché’ for what it was: the ubiquitous office tower that relied on the Miesian ‘less is more’ in order to erect buildings utilizing ‘less’ materials and labor while reaping ‘more’ profits. Once the trend was detected, the style fell out of favor.
On to the next ‘cliché’.
E. Sean Bailey
|Siouxsie Sioux and Friend, c. 1980 (source)
When preparing to leave for my first job after finishing architecture school, I decided to pack items that were predominantly black with a smattering of white and grey, heavily omitting color. This, in spite of the fact that in the preceding years I had mostly worn a combination of primary colors (although due to a lack of funds, by the end of school my wardrobe basically consisted of two t-shirts and one pair of jeans, which in any arrangement produced no particular color scheme). I can’t say that I have always avoided clichés but in this instance I embraced one: the architect in black. Everything would be so easy to match, an uncomplicated wardrobe of doom and gloom, where every piece coordinates perfectly with the next in a seamless series of combinations. Recalling everything from beatniks to goths, this pan-artsy gear provided the perfect funerary attire for easing myself into my new profession. Although a familiar archetype of dress in a Western context, transposed onto my ‘ethnic’ self, an element of confusion was added to this well worn cliché. Considering all of this, in addition to fashion’s front rows also echoing this dark sentiment, I figured black garb isn’t necessarily limited to a legacy as the uniform for architects and could potentially conjure other associations.
Erandi de Silva
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