Critical Regionalism In Free Movement Cultural Studies Essay

In an era where free movement of information, products and services has increased tremendously, the society is increasingly experiencing incidences of homogeneity. More than ever, the global population is assuming a common culture that is characterized by a high level of uniformity. Although this is in most instances considered to be western culture, it is notable that local cultural aspects are also being incorporated in the global culture. Just like other aspects of culture, it can not be disputed that architecture has equally experienced increased homogeneity. Emergent research argues that although internationalization of culture is an indication of societal advancement, it can also have detrimental effects on local culture. In this respect, it is particularly feared that internationalization undermines creativity and innovation as local efforts are integrated in to designs that are then accorded a global orientation.

The current trend has culminated in a conflict between internationalization and regional artists who argue that their efforts are increasingly undermined by the former. Increasingly, preservation of local and regional architecture and culture in general is becoming tricky. Preservation and conservation of local culture and architectural designs is requiring complex efforts in order to attain optimal results. It is against this background that this paper provides an explicit review of the concept of critical regionalism form Kenneth Frampton’s point of view. In order to enhance a harmonic consideration, the essay is classified in different phases that exhaustively review particularistic aspects of this conception, the contribution of Jorn Utzon to the subject under review, practical examples with respect to how culture has been unified in the modern cities, the response of critical universalism to future technology and several other concerns that are related in different ways to the concept of critical regionalism.

According to Butler and Spivak (2007), critical regionalism refers to the concentrated efforts or attempts that seek to synthesize or mainstream the rooted aspects of a given region such as physical attributes and cultural characteristics with the relevant technology being employed in development at that given time. The main aim of the efforts is to counter the inherent lack of identity and placelessness by putting in consideration the unique aspects that are found within the context or environment of the given building. Besides being mindful of the local environmental aspects, the ultimate architecture also incorporates the universal aspects that characterize the contemporary mobile society. In the long run, the final architecture can be considered to be sustainable and unique in different ways. This is fundamental in preserving the local culture, encouraging creativity and innovation and at he same time enhancing societal advancement. The notion of sustainability is integral to this conception as the final piece of architecture needs to be both functional and aesthetic n nature.

Critical regionalism is a concept that has been accorded increased attention since historical times. The term was initially coined by Liane Lefaivre and Alexander Tzonis. It was later analyzed and accorded new meanings by Kenneth Frampton in the preceding years. In his Towards a Critical Regionalism, Frampton provides an explicit analysis and review of different methodologies that can be employed in embracing modernity without compromising the role of the local knowledge. He also cites a host of modern construction practices that compromise the ability of the developers to incorporate important cultural aspects in constructions. His main argument revolves around the contention that as much as assuming modern values and attributes is imperative for enhancing competitiveness within the global sphere, equal attention also needs to be accorded to diverse features that are found in the environment that the building would be located.

Several authors of whom Powell (2007) is represented contend that internationalization has increasingly contributed to the erosion of critical traditional values, culture and attributes. Almost all aspects of the global population are undergoing a significant transition and more emphasis is being placed on homogenous cultures. In his review, Ricoeur (1965) contends that the current trend towards modernization can be implicated for disregarding the role of old civilizations in development. He argues that critical regionalization provides a credible alternative that can be employed in resolving the emergent challenges. The fact that the concept recognizes the importance of continuous evolution makes it instrumental in sustainable decision making as past lessons are used in determining the nature of future decisions and moves. The activities that are proposed by this conception tend to be flexible and can be employed in redefining the current decisions in order to adopt timely interventions that would reverse the current destructive trend.

In his critical review of culture and civilization, Frampton (1983) indicates that the current state of architecture and building is essentially conditioned by the building industry. This has led to the development of building restrictions and regulations that determine not only the design but also the citing of the buildings that are set up in different areas. The fact that the respective building codes and regulations are standardized and replicated in different areas undermines the ability of mainstreaming vital cultural concerns during construction of buildings. Contravention of the set restrictions and regulations often exposes the given developer to stringent measures that impact negatively on their welfare. This has led to the increase in high rise buildings that in most instances assume a similar design. At this point, it can be argued that this has played a leading role in suppressing cultural expression as well as creativity and innovation. In his research, Jameson (1983) cites that the current developments in this regard are laying undue emphasis on the concept of utility as opposed to different aspects whose interplay culminates in a sustainable construction practices.

The concept of critical regionalization according to Powell (2007) seeks to counter this trend by ensuring that as much as certain building codes are strictly adhered to, room is also provided for creativity, innovation and incorporation of critical cultural aspects. In essence, modernization is placed within the traditional concept and vice versa.

In current times, arts are increasingly employed in enhancing creativity and innovation. Artists use this medium to express their diverse cultural aspects to the entire world. It is also a viable way through which culture is preserved by the respective society and used for educational purposes in future. The fact that innovation and creativity is slowly but progressively being undermined through the gravitation of arts is also worrying. In this regard, it is argued that entertainment and manufacturing of commodities are providing avenues through which the society is increasingly developing a hybrid global culture. Specific techniques, methodologies and standards of constructing buildings provide limited room for inculcation of vital cultural aspects in the same. This is where critical regionalism comes in handy in a bit to counter the scenario. In this regard, the concept initiates and maintains an acceptable level of resistance that contravenes the set standards and procedures. This according to Frampton (1983) has been critical in putting brakes on the avant-garde pendulum. Respective efforts are geared towards a noble cause of preserving certain ideals that characterize the present day culture.

As indicated earlier, Frampton (1983) postulates that the current arrierre-garde holding position is likely to culminate in incidences of resistance and a persistent identity giving culture that is characterized by universal techniques. Seemingly, it is defined by the enlightenment progress myth that does not advocate for a return to vernacular forms. Critical regionalism at this point is defined as a bridge whose central position demands that the future architecture must pass over it in order to attain optimal results. Essentially, it is argued that position of critical regionalism demands that both universal civilization and world culture accord it utmost attention. This recognition is characterized by deconstruction of alien forms that have been forcefully or intentionally acquired by the global society and limitation of the economy that entirely depend son technological production.

A classic example of such a situation has been cited by Frampton to constitute Jorn Utzon’s Bagsvaerd Church that was built in 1976 and is located in Copenhagen. This is an exemplary illustration of the concepts of world culture and universal civilization. The construction of the exterior part was basically based on the universal technique. This is built using concrete blocks and concrete wall panels that are pre-cast. These are set up in a repetitive manner that creates an impression of a grid. Notably, this building code is found across the globe and it constitutes one of the important regulations that are set forth by the industry. Thus it can be considered a universal attribute that is in line with the global expectations with regards to building and construction.

Interior Design of Jorn Utzon’s Bagsvaerd Church

However, the interior part can be considered to express the world culture or secular culture that is typical to Copenhagen. One dominant feature of the interior pertains to the concrete vault that is not economic in nature and is not common on a universal scale. The inherent manipulation of light is only typical to sacred places found in the region. As mentioned afore, this is not an implication of western culture; rather it can only be likened to Chinese pagoda roof that is a representation of world culture.

Also worth acknowledging with regard to the concept of critical regionalism is the mainstreaming of the regional peculiarities in the construction process. In this respect, Lovine (2004) asserts that buildings need to put in consideration the environmental features and attributes of the locales within which they are situated. Generally, modernization puts lays particular emphasis on economizing the available space and in most instances, it is forced to get rid of certain aspects such as topography. The elimination of such aspects is a clear indication that certain techniques are employed during construction. Notably, other important aspects such as climate have also been controlled by human techniques during construction. In his research, Norberg-Schulz (1980) asserts that these aspects are important as they represent certain cultural aspects of the developer. Critical regionalism counters this by assuming the principle of building the site that incorporates diverse environmental aspects that are also a reflection of the cultural aspects of the given population.

A classical illustration of the importance of preferring tectonic over scenographic features is exemplified by the Aalto’s SSynatsalo Town hall that was constructed in 1952. In this, a tactile surface is successfully employed in enhancing the legibility of the architecture. The brick steps that line the exterior and lead to the chambers of the council create a harmonic impression that arguably affirms the feet as it meets each tread. The inside of the chambers are then made up of wood that presents a different feeling and reading altogether.

Generally, Slessor (2004) contends that designers that put in consideration regional criticism need to incorporate aspects of a physical as well as localized sense of place. Respective elements that can be effectively employed in attaining this included orientation, topography, lighting characteristics, micro climatic conditions and vegetation. Further, probabilities for natural ventilation, natural lighting and shading for cooling purposes are equally important. The benefits that accrue from this are not only economic in nature but they also place the building within the physical environmental surroundings and enhance the general harmony of the two. The inherent sense of interaction with the natural surroundings is an indication of environmental sensitivity that is critical in the twenty first century. Of great importance would be the employment of local materials for construction that not only cuts down economic costs but also enhances the performance of the given building.

Also worth mentioning with regard to critical regionalism is the ability of the designer to clearly interpret the passage of time using the building. According to Foucault (1986), a building that provides clear ways of recording and understanding the passage of time is a clear expression of the period that it was constructed. This is important as it enables the society to understand it in light of historical revolution. The respective recording methods can also offer a basement upon which future construction can be devised as well as understood. In particular, attitudes regarding durability, permanence, change and decay that are related to recording are a vital expression of the sensibility of the region.

Further, Butler and Spivak (2007) indicate that emphasis on the importance of human interaction during construction is also an important aspect of regional criticism. In this regard, the given design needs to consider the organization as well as structure of the family that would reside therein. In certain communities, concerns expand beyond the domestic sphere and incorporate the dimensions of the community within which the family is situated as well as the economic and political structures that characterize the region. Issues pertaining to power, the ability of the design to either express invitation or exclusion is also accorded utmost attention during this time. Other concepts include democracy, hierarchy and bureaucracy. These need to be clearly defined as they are critical in the understanding of the places and spaces that buildings present.

Also equally important to critical regionalism is a clear understanding of human dignity and organization within the building. Emergent aspects such as leisure time need to be put in consideration during the construction process. In this regard, Jameson (1983) indicates that the twenty first century tendencies lay particular importance on the separation of spaces employed in production and consumption. These differences have been identified to have diverse impacts on the holistic functioning of the society. Relative concerns also involve the responsibility of individuals within vast business environments, the compartmentalization and separation of activities in the course of the process of production and the role of machines in the production process are important architectural concerns that need to be interpreted effectively.

Arguably, all the above concepts interlink and interrelate with each other to culminate to culminate in a suitable environment that is supportive of the activities of the post industrial society. Questions revolving around mass production and participation of individuals in the entire process need to be addressed accordingly. Human dignity needs to be upheld to attain optimal production that is fundamental for successful operation. At this juncture, it can be ascertained that critical regionalism is an all inclusive concept that generally seeks to enhance sustainable development with respect to architecture and construction.

In his research, Davey (2001) ascertains that the concept of regulation of building codes across the globe has led to unification of designs. Most cities adapt their design from the grid structure. The buildings contained therein tend to be of a similar design that is influenced by the set and standardized regulations. For instance, commercial buildings that are mostly found within the central business districts of cities such as New York and London tend to be of a similar design. This differs from those employed for constructing buildings in residential areas. Again, these tend to adopt a distinct design hat is stipulated by the technical expertise in the industry. The fact that developing economies are also increasingly adopting this trend has various implications on future construction and architecture in general.

According to Slessor (2000), the replication of these designs in developing countries can be attributed to the concept of westernization that is perceived to be more ideal than the cultural aspect. This is likely to have detrimental effects on the cultural welfare of the societies in general. In particular, this would probably be unified and would compromise the concept of diversity n the long run. Also worth mentioning are the current trends that tend to consider local and regional designs to be global in nature. Basically, this is contributed to by changes in perceptions that tend to accord certain cultural designs more importance and preference than others.

At this point, it can be contended that future architecture is compounded by various complexities that need to be effectively addressed by relevant institutions, persons and authorities. Certainly, creativity, innovation and cultural diversity are increasingly being compromised by internationalization of building codes. The loss of diversity is likely to have devastating effects on the wellbeing of the society as it would negatively impact on the ability of the given society to cushion itself against destructive environmental effects. Several factors have been put forth by relative studies in a bit to address this glaring shortcoming.

Powell (2007) maintains that the concept of sustainability needs to be revisited and made a mainstream factor during construction and architectural design. In this respect, it is suggested that practical measures need to be undertaken to significantly reduce energy consumption of buildings. Statistical evidence shows that the amount of energy consumed by the buildings is equal to those employed in the industrial sector. This can be attained if natural resources found in the given environment are employed in construction of buildings found therein. This implies that the architectural designs that are employed in such areas need to be localized.

Capitalization on the topography and other natural features found in the given environment also need to be assumed in order to reduce the resources employed in construction. Powell (2007) indicates that the current trend is leading to unification of architectural designs that undermines diversity. Environmental aesthetics is also being compromised by the internationalization of architectural designs. Techno-scientific-cum-economic agendas have inherent problems that could be difficult to resolve in future. Therefore, viable alternatives that reflect distinctive cultural aspects of a community need to be explored.


From the preceding analysis, it is certain that critical regionalism is an all inclusive concept that is based on the principle of sustainability. It is made up of various concepts that are imperative for sustainable development. It not only appreciates the importance of modernization in architectural design and building construction but also ensures that relative decisions are informed by important lessons learnt in the past. Traditional cultural aspects are integrated in architectural designs and construction that is driven by critical regionalism. The current trends have raised various concerns with regard to architectural designs and building codes being employed on a global scale. As it has been prescribed by this study, practical intervention measures need to be undertaken in order to counter the current scenario. The concepts of sustainability and inclusion of physical features like topography need to influence the development of modern architectural designs. This will not only save resources but will enhance diversity that is critical in cushioning the society against various threats.

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