Critical RegionalismIn the 1980s a few architects and theorists were disappointed with the direction that architecture was taking under the influence of postmodernism. Rather than unveiling the historicity of style in their designs, postmodern architects became another avant garde that produced designs that mimicked classical style.
Critical regionalism was the response. Focusing on the relationship between building and its location, theorists Kenneth Frampton, Alex Tzonis and Liliane Lafaivre looked at how architecture can mediate between regional particularities and global culture:
the concept of regionalism here indicated an approach to design giving priority to the particular rather than to the universal dogmas.
The most coherent and central description of this movement comes from Frampton’s essay, “Toward a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance.” Design should draw inspiration from the region that it inhabits:
The fundamental strategy of Critical Regionalism is to mediate the impact of universal civilization with elements derived indirectly from the peculiarities of a particular space.
Frampton does not want nostalgia for folk styles, an acritical revival of vernacular architecture. In fact, Frampton gives more preference to how the architect deals with the irregularities of the physical landscape rather than how he or she employs local culture (“layering into the site the idiosyncrasies of place find their expression without falling into sentimentality”.) The architect should enter “a dialectical relation with nature”, taking clues from the topography and avoiding bulldozing in order to flatten space. Frampton also recommends using top-lighting and exposing the elements of construction, speaking more of the relationship of the building to its space. (Of course, vernacular architecture also took its cues from the physical landscape.)
Although critical regionalism is a theory of architecture, it says something important about the potentials of political regionalism. No place can become culturally frozen in time, yet values need not be displaced in the process of nationalization or globalization. Regionalism ought not be a defense against the world, but a means of managing contact therewith. Certainly, there is a variety of approaches to regionalism, not all of which are about cultural preservation.