Modern Transformations

Randy D. Bosch  ©2010

The terms Renaissance Man and Renaissance Woman are most often used today to describe someone who has interests in, or may have even mastered, a broad range of subjects – a polymath.  In the historic Renaissance period, that description would be clearly applicable to a number of people known to us today in the fields of art, architecture, music, philosophy and literature – perhaps even in secular politics and in theology. 

The significant Renaissance person, Leonardo da Vinci for one example,  had more than interests or mastery, they searched for and incorporated learning from one aspect of life, one area of endeavor, into all that they attempted.  Art informed architecture, and vice versa.  Botany informed philosophy and vice versa. 

Roger von Oech, of “Creative Think” fame, author of seminal works on awakening and utilizing your innovative capabilities in books such as A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants (serious studies presented with great humor in a way that “sticks”), brilliantly recognized the cross-pollination of ideas that lead to innovation in a profound way.  I highly recommended them for study today (see the Bibliography and Roger vonOech’s website at ).

Several of many additional catalysts for thinking across disciplinary boundaries are worth pondering, these two examples selected from the field of Architecture:

William Curtis authored “Contemporary Transformations of Modern Architecture” published in Architectural Record in June, 1989.  Think about your own areas of interest, craft, profession or philosophy when you consider the following brief excerpts of his work.

 Extending Traditions (Not Revivalism): “To speak of inheriting and extending a tradition does not mean copying what has gone before… It rather means absorbing the principles behind earlier solutions and transforming them into new vocabularies suitable to changed conditions…imbibe the spirit without mimicking the style (not ‘revivalism’).”

 Context and Local Traditions  (True Regionalism, Not Imitation): “…Regionalisms of whatever kind run the risk of producing hackneyed imitations of the vernacular.  The result is then a sort of easy vacation ‘kitsch’ done up with Mediterranean arches, thatched roofs, or whatever.  Hopefully it is possible to translate regional principles for dealing with climate and cultural patterns into a vocabulary able to handle a range of modern conditions.”

 Excavating Tradition (Not Superficial Copying): “To those who understand them properly, the Modern Masters offer many avenues into earlier traditions…(Mario) Botta makes no bones about being a Modern architect, but this does nothing to stop him from drawing lessons from both the Ticino Vernacular and Palladio…Tradition is penetrated for its substructures and not its superficial effects.” 

That is an invitation to you to transform tradition into a vital new order without losing the essence or truth of the tradition.

 Significant Content, Significant Form: “The methods are modern, the mood is archaic, the content is perennial.”

Search for Substance: “…there are many architects who continue to draw sustenance from the seminal works created earlier in this (20th) century in confronting the new tasks…each architect has his or her own debt to, and dialogue with, predecessors.”

 Similarly, the oft-misunderstood concept of and necessity for considering “regionalism” was addressed relative to architecture, but applicable throughout a truly non-homogenous world, by Kenneth Frampton in his essay Toward a Critical Regionalism in 1988.  Again, view his critical point through the lens of your discipline, art or science and look for applicability:

 “The fundamental strategy of Critical Regionalism is to mediate the impact of universal civilization with elements derived indirectly from the peculiarities of a given place.  It is clear from the above that Critical Regionalism depends upon maintaining a high level of critical self-consciousness.  It may find its governing inspiration in such things as the range and quality of the local light, or in the tectonic derived from a peculiar structural mode, or in the topography of a given site.”

Whatever your “-ism”, tradition, or “regionalism” in your work, as you consider a new approach toward a “renaissance” of creativity and productivity, application of their insights can clear the air of misconceptions, the dead “traditionalism” – rote repeating of past actions for long-forgotten reason or purpose – that blocks moving ahead with innovative work – without losing the values and truths of time-proven traditions. 

 Give it a try!


About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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