As a featured commentator in the May 3, 2007 edition of The Honolulu Advertiser, Matthew Goyke discusses taking the humanist approach toward architecture and using Hawaii's unique qualities and culture as a guideline for professional excellence.
Architecture as expression of community
By Matthew Goyke
This year's Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in the field of architecture, went to British architect Richard Rogers. One of the hallmarks of a Richard Rogers project is the way it invites people to read the building and how it works. To that end, Rogers has turned the design of buildings inside out, showing all of what would ordinarily be its innards, outside.
That hasn't always won him unqualified approval. The Millenium Dome in London had its share of loud detractors, but today it joins Lloyd's of London, the Pompidou Center in Paris, Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport in Madrid, Nippon Television Headquarters in Tokyo and the design for a 71-story tower for the World Trade Center in New York as examples of the distinctive, groundbreaking work of this 73-year-old champion of the city.
The humanist approach that Rogers adopted toward architecture contains many lessons that we in Hawai'i would be wise to heed as the construction boom continues, changing the character of both our skyline and streets.
Cities are for living and must be friendly to the gathering of people, says Rogers. Implicit in that is a readiness to compromise, to forsake the unyielding rigidity of hard structures for the softer, more accommodating contours of meeting places where people can feel comfortable in what surrounds them.
There is much science in architecture, but Rogers invites us to express that science using all the stratagems of modernist art.
In Hawai'i, with its own distinctive island art of living, we must be mindful that what we do as architects and designers is less a triumph of individualism and more an expression of community. Here, where we are blessed with the wonderful trade winds, with blue skies and lush greenery, we are in a position to be a leader for the rest of the world in how we conceive of our living and work spaces.
The call to demonstrate architectural leadership is one that becomes doubly urgent when combined with the challenge to respond to global warming and the need to protect the Islands' fragile environment.
Situated where we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we are uniquely placed to demonstrate, both to the Asia-Pacific region and to the Mainland as well as to the rest of the world, that we know how to bring the inside and the outside together.
We know how to integrate public and private spaces. We know how to blend future technologies with our past, and we know how to serve the changing needs of those who use the buildings we design.
In so doing, we will be providing a model for professional excellence that also complements local traditions and the unique qualities of Hawai'i in an organic, culturally sensitive way.
This is a call for more formal rigor, not less. The kind of professional rigor that makes us mindful of what we must do to reach for the sky while keeping our feet firmly on the ground and our eye on our neighbor's well-being.
If we can do that, we would have learned well the lessons offered by the career of this year's Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate, and we'd be helping make Hawai'i a better gathering place for all.
Matthew Goyke is president and principal architect of Green Sand Inc. and has been a practicing architect in Hawai'i for 18 years. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.