Readers’ Forum: How modern architecture is discouraging community

Readers’ Forum writer Elise Kiriaka states modern architecture is discouraging community. (Courtesy Elise Kiriaka)

Look around. We live in an ever-expanding architectural society. As we accommodate for the growth due to neighborhoods developing, towns expanding, and cities thriving, it is expected that new buildings be made to accommodate the change. Maybe some of the buildings you are envisioning include a bank, skyscrapers, or even a fast-food chain. But why are these buildings becoming more and more simple?

The modern look is taking over and destroying the character of a community.

On the other hand, traditional buildings are durable, encapsulate history, and add life to society. 

To look at things on a surface level, the simplicity of modern architecture is becoming cold, harsh, and an eye sore. The harsh lines, overwhelming geometric structure, and characterless asymmetrical forms have become increasingly popularized in this modern era. Corporate America has become consumed with the toxic ideal of making the most profit possible, pushing aside the need for character and personality within buildings. These quick, commercial expansions make our cities look cheap and tacky. This reflects our society poorly, painting the idea that we are built on a cheap and temporary foundation. Our buildings should reflect strength and stability. We can do this by building more traditional and inviting structures that have personality and create community.

Marcantonio Architecture defines traditional architecture when saying, “By using traditional forms, that is forms which are recognizable and communicate substantive content, the architecture becomes intelligible to the people of a particular place. As such, a people is able to communicate through their architecture who they are and what they value both to themselves for their own edification, to future generations, and to others.”

One might argue that a more traditional concept towards buildings might take more time or even cost more. Instead of thinking of this in terms of the immediate present, we should look at it from the standpoint that older buildings are built to last. If we invest more in our future now, we will not have to start again when our quick and bare minimum buildings do not meet their purpose anymore. Plus, as the saying goes, quality over quantity. We should not only be trying to expand our population’s lives but also enhancing the quality. People are worth a nicer society. One that makes its citizens feel like more than just a machine going through the motions to work, school, or even to shop.  

When we look back at more traditional buildings and homes, we see quality character elements, elements that make a place feel timeless and classy. As a child, I have many fond memories of going downtown Spokane, Washington and seeing the beautiful architecture that stands beautiful and welcoming, overcoming the harsh environments over many years. Then, as  I got older, I encountered new buildings. It was exciting being the first class to go to our new middle school, everything we brand new. Only to my shock, I ended up attending a building with sharp, stale character. This made school feel like a harsh, uninviting fluorescent light. Not only do traditional buildings create an aesthetic appeal, but they also convey the history of the  community. Buildings of this type are built to last with care, and through that advantage they are appreciated for their whole existence and not just until they are considered cheugy leading to a redesign.  

When we step back to take a broader look at our nation, shouldn’t we be investing in a  cultured, sturdy society? We need to go back to some of our more grounded roots in creating traditional structures. Through this thoughtful change, our communities will contain more character. Let’s spark change, voice our opinions as a whole, and make our community expansion ones that make our lives more unified and comfortable. 

Elise Kiriaka

Spokane, Washington

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