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Topic for Debate
 
Iconic design - Architecture
This is an abstraction of the issues we typically include under Regionalism, Identity, Local Architecture. It seems that all of these can be classified under Iconic Design and Architecture,

What is it?

It appears that it means that a culture has a fixed image of what an object should be like and that subsequesnt generations of that culture keep on building that object in the same way and with the same shape. Iconic Design attempts to match between the controlled climate and the available resources of the culture itself. The form of an an object becomes so bound up with the way of life of a society that the pressures against changes become very very rigid.

Any thoughts on this abstraction?
Ashraf Salama
Responses
 
Iconic design - Architecture
the icon exists, it's a stereotype that becomes embedded into the brain. for example the word 'mosque' and the image of the dome and minar come to mind, before thier relevance in the building type. to a designer this steroetype might be discontcerting to some extent, but on the flipside these stereotypes are very comfortable for the people that they are designed for. these stereotypes lend to immediate recognition and affiliation with a space.
secondly i would have question: would iconic design necessarily have to be something that has been instilled through generations of culture? could it also include architecture that has become a an icon for a culture? like the statue of liberty for the US or the sydney opera house for australia? and even the barlcelona pavilion by mies when germany whanted to project a new image itself after the war.
Ahmed Asad Zuberi
Iconic design - Architecture
Yes, the icon becomes a stereotype and in many cases images come to mind prior to words or functions. I think Iconic imples stylistic preferences repeated over and over, by a society or a group of people that share common values and that agree with or without verbalizing their agreement that there are common ways of going about doing things and common ways of seeing the form, shape, and content of those things

I think for your question and the reference to statue of liberty or opera Sydney, I would not consider them as "ICONS" since the word itself refers to "repetition"; meaning the same object has been created, and repeated several times so that it became part of the visual attributes of a culture. I would see them as objects that acquired meaning over time, but they do not necessarily relate to Iconic design.
Ashraf Salama
Iconic design - Architecture
icons are "established immages"as architecture lasts longer and has multiple adoptations stands to intrigue us.actually architectural icons deffine stle of the time and relevant traditions.
Dushyant Nathwani
Iconic design - Architecture
In Pakistan, arches and domes have become synonymous with Islamic architecture and a layman (infact many architects as well) believe that Islamic Architecture is a collage of a series of arches and domes and if you throw in a bit of geometrical patterns then you have achieved the highest level of "Islamic Architecture". This misconception led to "Islamizing" the Supreme Court of Pakistan building designed by Kenzo Tange in straight lines and bold volumes. But the "stick-on" arches in marble and a monumental archway at the entrance of the building has resulted in a hotch-potch and has taken away its beauty.

But before blaming the laymen (government officials in this case) who one can say were victims of the 'iconic design syndrome" a large number of our architects also believe in such icons without knowing their past. I have questioned this in some other thread as well that how on earth can Mughal Imperial Architecture represent Pakistani Architecture? Mughal dynasty was a 331 year period in Indo-Pakistan's history. They were foreign invaders who wrestled control of the area (like the British did later) and the grand buildings that our so-called "traditionalists" copy were the buildings built by the rulers NOT by the public. Therefore it represents a fraction of the buildings constructed in that era. The architecture of the public never came to forefront because it was not sanctioned by the mighty Emperor and its scale could not match that of the Taj Mahal! The buildings sanctioned by the emperors can be counted on fingertips... but they have been made to represent a vast, rich, old culture of the region by our myopic tradionalists!

So unfortunately the forms and details used in these Imperial buildings have become an inspiration for our pseudo-traditionalist who consider them as representing Pakistani Architecture.

There is an even more ignorant class (amongst our architects) who insists on defining Islamic Architecture as the architecture of the Mughals!

Mind you, this class includes teachers of many architectural schools!
Hammad Husain
Iconic design - Architecture
Yes, this is the case in many developing countries: arches, arcades and domes are copied and pasted exactly as is. In some cases borrowing from one historical period. In others, in an electice manner where elements from several periods are mixed. All under the banners of revivalism or post-modernism. The strange thing is that no re-intepretation occurs at all. This image is of "Khan Al Azizia" project-mid nieties--that represents the case of copy-paste in a very daring manner, without any effort for any re-interpretation. In this project, the architect and the developer wanted to create an image similar to the ones of Old Cairo, but in a desert context. The overall appearance is not convincing, even when considering buildings as visual or non-verbal statements only. Neither the function nor the context justify the image. It is also dis-associated from the contemporary life style people aspire to have. I believe Iconic does not apply here since the building is not part of anything other than the interests of the developer and the architect.

I would interpret "iconic" in a contemporary manner and refer to the conscious attempts for deep interpretations of images that meet cultural and social aspirations of the time. While I do believe in plurality and multiplicity of architectural trends, the danger lies when the copy-paste attitude becomes a predominant trend.

In a constructive manner one can say that good examples emerge here and there in the Muslim world. Many architects have devoted to the re-interpretation and adaptation of icons to establish visual anchors with the past, while a contemporary image is created. Archnet digital library is full of good examples, that we can discuss here. But as you say, there is a need to be liberated from "tranditionalism."

All in all, it would appear that current practices suggest that those who have deep valuable history look backward and those who do not have history at all look forward, I am not sure if this is right though.
Ashraf Salama
Iconic design - Architecture
Dr. Salama, I would tend to disagree with your last paragraph. I think looking forward has no relation with what kind of a history a nation has. Looking forward does not necessarily imply forgetting your past or negating it. its what we refer to as 'Historical allusion' which is practised by Michael Graves and Robert A M Stern.

Japan has a very rich histroy but they have not let that tie them down in their quest for economic success. However, they have not let go of their proud past and those wooden structures and traditional Japanese forms co-exist with the shiny steel and glass scyscrapers which serve the practical and fuctional demand of a vibrant society of Japan.

One should be proud of ones's history, heritage and traditions but one shouldnt get bogged down by that.

So with a strong past, one can, and should, look forward. Infact it helps in moving forward as there is something of one's own to draw inspiration from. But I strongly support in looking forward and thinking global.

Regards,
Hammad Husain
Iconic design - Architecture
Mr. Husain, you are absolutely right. What I am truly arging for is the worry when copy paste attitude becomes a trend or the general case. then, history becomes a burden if people would have nothing to offer other than replicating it.

Being proud of history and heritage is determinstic. And, as you say striking a balance between having a strong history and heritage and looking forward is really the issue. Still, the challenge remains for developing icons derived from the legacies, but in the meantime "contemporary" This is why--among other logical and important reasons, in my view, projects and architects who are capable of meeting this challenge get awards and are praised by the professional community.

I believe we are on the same page.

My best
Ashraf Salama
Iconic design - Architecture
visuals becoming strong and used as statement by designer is "icon" let it be historic,cultural,community based,religious presentation,in architecture design elements do give some associative values,why try to find formula?
Dushyant Nathwani
Iconic design - Architecture
It is not a formula, but arguing for the accommodation of historic icons in contemporary architecture based on a deep re-interpretation of these icons and adapting them.
Ashraf Salama
Iconic design - Architecture
if icons are understud as design elements,it reflects architectural style of the time and region,adopting them in new way is wellcomeing the past in to present,a sure way to metamorphise something hibernating.
Dushyant Nathwani
Iconic design - Architecture
Dear Dr. Ashraf,
I used to sit on a cafe in "Khan Al Azizia" project. It is much worst than you think. Every part of it is a shame for the architect who by the way was incharge of the historic cairo preservation office (which belonged to the Ministry of Culture)

I think that you are right that people with heritage looks back while people with no heritage look forward. This statment is true but the reasons are vague to me. That is why I cannot argue on its behalf. The Sheraton Miramar by Michel Graves (a dome and vault buildings shows us an example of iconic vocabulary used in a innovative way. why didn't we do it first?)
Ahmed Sabry
Iconic design - Architecture
Yes, Khan Al Azizia is very bothering. I photographed the building several times in 1999 before the opening of the complex. You are right, who decides what for whom is a central issue in comissioning projects especially senstive projects like old Cairo's work.

Sheraton Miramar by Michael Graves and Ramy El Dahhan/Sohier Farid is in my view a deep re-interpretation of local icons. Although many say it is based on eclecticism, I would argue that it is a conscious endeavour to re-interpret the past.
Ashraf Salama
Iconic design - Architecture
I totally agree with you
Ahmed Sabry
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