I have always reveled in the idea of being a part of a creation that would outlast me. Prominent architecture, works of art, books, and music all have an element of immortality embedded within them. Though they might be physically gone from this world, the authors of design remain living in the works they leave behind—which makes me wonder, should architecture stand the test of time?
As an aesthetic profession that is constantly trying to define itself through expression in form or adherence to function, architecture is in a state of continual flux regarding its own identity. To create an enduring work of design that can maintain its function throughout time has proven difficult for many, which is witnessed when stepping into the world of architectural relics littering our built landscapes. The most renowned examples can be found in Detroit, a once thriving city that was cut down by the exodus of industry and has been in a state of decay since the 1950s. The ruins of this once great metropolis act as a scar on the community and only serve to impede future progression within the city. The shattered forms of these structures remain in decay, but the function they were once created to serve is gone.
Buildings maintain a specific form throughout time, but lose the vital sense of self when there is no function being performed within. People are the lifeblood flowing through these creations, and once removed, only the dead carcass of the building remains. Unlike the cyclical processes in nature, buildings have a much more difficult time decomposing to aid in the birth of future works. There are forms of reclamation that may be used to harvest materials from existing functionless structures, but the process is timely and cost prohibitive. Buildings aren’t designed to decay, but maybe they should be. Function will continually be changing, and the forms that we create need to be able to adapt, or perhaps be designed for obsolescence. I’m not offering a specific solution to this problem, but I do believe we should have conversations regarding this issue. The idea of permanently leaving our mark on society is enticing, but we must consider how future generations will utilize the structures that we are placing onto the built landscape.