Throughout history architecture has been described to the layperson through the analogy of fashion. In the 1920s and 30s architects disrobed their buildings of the traditional ornamentation and dressed them in a new skin, the white walls; henceforth a defining characteristic of “modern architecture.”
The evolution of clothing (in particular women’s fashion) has followed a discourse similar to that of architecture; heavy and ornate replaced by “form following function” to today, for lack of a better term, mostly spectacle.
Still architecture struggles to step outside of fashion, perhaps anti-fashion or better yet fashion-free because with fashion come trends. Trends implicitly impart the idea of temporality – popular for a fleeting moment only (we can all think back to things we wore years ago we wouldn’t dream of wearing today – RIP parachute pants, please). How then do architects design beyond the next fashionable outfit, something timeless and relevant? Are the white walls “last season” or do we continue to dress our buildings in them with a few updates in shape and cut?
On the other hand should architects embrace this relationship? The concept is certainly not new and is the subject of countless papers, books, and a MOMA show among others. There have been some interesting results when these two practices collide, sometimes literally as seen here or here.
Love it or hate it, architecture could give a whole new spin on “what’s going to be in next spring?”
Image of wedding dress by Paco Rabanne (christies.com)
Image of High Museum of Art addition by Renzo Piano (architectureweek.com)