Opening with a lengthy quotation from Paul Ricouer’s History and Truth (1961), Kenneth Frampton’s influential essay on modern architecture immediately reveals what he proposes architecture should resist: the homogeneity inherent in modern society. Most revealing here are the closing sentiments provided by Ricouer and repeated by Frampton, “the paradox: how to become modern and to return to sources; how to revive an old, dormant civilization and take part in universal civilization” (16). Frampton rejects neither possibility in these two paradoxes, instead proposing an architecture which is mediatory; which can encompass both positions.
Modernist architecture for Frampton has been deprived of this mediatory quality through the implementation of universal, industrialised techniques which work against the reflection of local culture in built-forms. The author suggests that this could be overcome through, amongst other things, the use of local materials, traditional building techniques or even, in a tirade against “the ubiquitous air conditioner” (27), an appreciation of the local climate. Frampton does not wholly reject the universal or the industrial, but neither does he advocate a return to “sentimental regionalism” (20). Rather, he calls for an architecture that can encompass, for example, culture and nature, and the public and private arenas, creating a conglomerate, heterogeneous dialectic, “a place-conscious poetic” (27) as Frampton terms it, which can act as a site for the aggregation of such binaries. Essentially, what the author is suggesting here is a critique of regionalism which nonetheless has region at its centre. A somewhat paradoxical proposal but one which emphasises the need, as Frampton sees it, for architecture to intervene in the competing elements of, on the one hand, the homologising of structural forms, and on the other, the danger of lapsing into a vernacular style.
Frampton’s densely argued manifesto for a reinvigorated regional architecture, has sufficient roots in the wider motivations – to explore issues of difference and identity in a simultaneously fragmented and homogenised postmodern world – and flexibilities of the spatial turn, that it has been adopted across the humanities, moving beyond its architectural basis and into other social and cultural structures.
Frampton, K. (1983) Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance. In, Foster, H. (ed). Postmodern Culture. London; Pluto Press. pp.16-30.