Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Form follows function.

No it doesn't.

Engineering is one of those fields where economy and efficiency of materials are highly prized. It, perhaps more than architecture, lives to the credo of "form follows function". Buildings and other engineering works, must satisfy the need that that willed their creation. A bridge that doesn't carry the load is useless.

However this philosophy places form subservient to function which I feel is not its proper place. By this same philosophy, if form does not contribute to function, it is deemed useless and wasteful. The architects agreed, ornament is a crime declared Adolf Loos. In a world of scarce resources, putting more into a structure than what is needed is a waste, and perhaps morally wrong. Accountants and economists would heartily agree. Efficiency uber alles.

Now lets take a look at this from a real world view. From an engineering point of view, both these women are the same. Both are capable of reproducing, performing useful work and both are capable of holding a conversation. The fact that the fatter one will probably die earlier than the thinner one--it's not a given-- is irrelevant if the "design life" is calculated at 60 years. From a functional point of view, both these women are the same. Their form is irrelevant.

And yet they're not. Clearly, though both satisfy the engineering criteria, one is preferable to the other. Likewise consider two bridges.

Both fulfill the same function of carrying traffic over a road, yet clearly they have different form. Most normal people would see one the more desirable than the other. Function alone is clearly not enough.

In an age where life expectancy was so much less than today due to poverty, disease and famine, our forefathers still felt it was worthy to ornament a structure in such a way as to make it both beautiful and functional. Our society baulks at the the cost, we are indeed mean and miserable men

Form should complement function. To hell with the modernists.

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